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Federal Court Orders NYPD To Release Intelligence Documents About RNC Surveillance Operation

A federal judge today ordered New York City to turn over to the New York Civil Liberties Union hundreds of documents detailing information collected by the NYPD through its undercover surveillance of political groups planning demonstrations at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Today’s ruling comes in two federal lawsuits filed by the NYCLU challenging the mass arrest, prolonged detention, and blanket fingerprinting of nearly two thousand Convention protesters. The NYPD has claimed that its harsh treatment of protesters was justified by information it had obtained from its pre-Convention political surveillance operation. The Department, however, had refused to produce documents detailing that information to the NYCLU, claiming that their disclosure would compromise law-enforcement concerns. After personally reviewing the documents, federal Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV today rejected that claim and ordered the NYPD to produce the documents to the NYCLU.

“The NYPD’s handling of the Convention remains a subject of enormous controversy, but we are getting closer to the knowing the truth behind the Department’s harsh treatment of protesters,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “We intend to pursue this until we know the full story of the NYPD’s political surveillance program.”

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn, who is lead counsel on the NYCLU’s RNC litigation, said, “Today’s ruling does not require the disclosure of sensitive law-enforcement information but does force the City to turn over documents identifying what groups the NYPD spied on and what information was gathered from that spying. We believe these documents will reveal not only the vast scope of the NYPD’s political surveillance operation but also that there was no need for the NYPD’s harsh treatment of protesters.”

NYCLU Staff Attorney Palyn Hung is co-counsel on the case.

Click here to read the decision (PDF).

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