Friday, January 27, 2006

Surveilling Americans

The ACLU of Georgia has filed a lawsuit alleging that the government has been secretly surveilling peaceful protests. The lawsuit is based on the questionable arrest of two activists after they wrote down the license plate number of an undercover Homeland Security agent taking pictures of the protest. WXIA news has a story on the suit:
Two documents relating to anti-war and anti-government protests, and a vegan rally, prove the agencies have been "spying" on Georgia residents unconstitutionally, the ACLU said. (Related: ACLU Complaint -- PDF file)

For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.

An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.


The government file lists anti-war protesters in Atlanta as threats, the ACLU said. The ACLU of Georgia accuses the Bush administration of labeling those who disagree with its policy as disloyal Americans.
The ACLU has the full text (PDF) of its complaint online; it contains a detailed narrative of the events surrounding Childs' arrest (starting on page 6).

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