AMNET: Police Spying Revealed

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by Chip Berlet


The belated production of a set of correspondence files from

the Chicago Police Department Intelligence Unit (CPD/ID) has

confirmed suspicions that an informal nationwide network for

sharing political dossiers among police and private intelligence

agencies existed for several decades prior to 1975.


The documents were assumed to have been destroyed as part of

an attempt by the Chicago Police Department to sanitize their

intelligence files after a police informant warned superiors

in 1974 that a lawsuit against political spying was planned by a

Chicago coalition group called the Alliance to End Repression and

other activist groups.


“All of the agencies received from, or sent to, the Chicago

Police Department Intelligence Division information regarding the

lawful political activity of citizens,” said plaintiff’s attorney

Richard Gutman.


The existence of the “Transmittal Files” was inadvertantly

discovered in September of 1984 – seven years after a Federal

Judge had ordered their production in pre-trial discovery

proceedings.  The files show that 159 agencies in 33 states

throughout the nation received political spying files from, or

sent such files to, the Chicago Police Department Intelligence



The agencies include 100 municipal police departments, 26

state law enforcement agencies, 16 county sheriffs offices, and

17 other public and private agencies.


“While many concerned civil libertarians have been convinced

of the existence of politically-motivated activity by their local

police, they have frequently been frustrated by the need for

concrete proof.” said Frank Donner.  Donner, author of The Age of

Surveillance (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1980), the definitive work on

political surveillance in the United States, called for a

“remedial campaign to abolish such abuses.”


Gutman, has been providing the police reports to lawyers

pursuing litigation against local police agencies for illegal

political surveillance.  He says he is willing to discuss the

terms of a court protective order covering the material with

legitimate legal representatives of individuals or groups

contemplating such litigation.  So far eleven attorneys or

representatives of legal groups have contacted Gutman for copies

of relevant documents.  Numerous named individuals have asked for

and received copies of their files as well.


According to Gutman, the following examples are typical of

the material discussed in the Transmittal Files:


*The Texas Department of Public Safety (“Texas Rangers”)

sought “any pertinent information related to subversive

activities or affiliations” regarding Chicago attorney Terry Yale

Feiertag. The Chicago police responded that attorney Feiertag was

employed by an organization whic provided legal aid to low income

groups and in civil rights cases;


*The Indianapolis Police Department sought “any data”

regarding Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam. The Chicago

police in response sent information about the group’s lawful

anti-war activities;


*The Detroit Police Department sought information regarding

Lucy Montgomery. in response the Chicago police sent Detroit a

four-page report detailing Mrs. Montgomery’s lawful political




Although the federal district court on May 4, 1977, ordered

the Chicago Police Department to produce all such transmittal

files, the files were not produced for inspection until September

25, 1984, seven years after the order. The plaintiffs in the

lawsuit filed a motion to have the Chicago Police Department held

in contempt for failing to obey the court order.  Federal Judge

Susan Getzendanner denied the motion.


It is almost certain the files originally were intentionally

withheld to prevent discovery by the plaintiffs.  However it is

unclear at what point in the lengthy litigation, which saw

defendants take several different legal postures regarding what

documents were covered by the discovery order, that the fact of

the files existence became lost in the mountains of paperwork.


The Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago sought to

block Gutman from providing the documents to plaintiffs

litigators in other cities.  This is ironic because the current

Mayor, Harold Washington, was for many years an outspoken critic

of the CPD Intelligence Unit and its civil liberties violations.

While still a Congressional Representative and while running for

the Mayoral post, he described himself publicly as a victim of

illegal police spying.


Now, in a recent court proceeding, attorneys representing

the City of Chicago tried unsuccessfully to block paralegals

working on an ACLU spying case in California from having access

to CPD/ID materials already provided to the ACLU attorneys in

that case.


The City of Chicago attorneys successfully blocked release

of files relating to Michigan to Michigan state representative

Perry Bullard.  Bullard, Chairperson of the Michigan House

Judiciary Committee, had requested access to the files to

evaluate “the necessity for new state legislation regulating

surveillance by Michigan state and local law enforcement

agencies.”  Judge Getzendanner, who has expressed thinly-veiled

displeasure from the bench that the case remains on the docket,

ruled that a subpoena from the Michigan legislative body would be