FBI vet Rowley rips RNC report, readies WAMM complaints, pursues police data

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FBI whistleblower-turned-activist Coleen Rowley is on a roll. She ripped into the City of St. Paul’s report on Republican National Convention law enforcement in a commentary that appeared Friday at MinnPost and today at The Huffington Post. Tomorrow, as court hearings start in the cases of the RNC8 protesters, Rowley and individuals from Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and other groups will file formal complaints against the city, state and Ramsey County over police tactics. And Rowley’s inquiries into what she suspects was overbroad surveillance during the RNC are starting to bear fruit — or at least what she calls a first “non-responsive” response from Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher’s office.

In her commentary, Rowley cites President Obama’s inauguration as an example of a National Special Security Event (like the RNC) that police pulled off “somehow, without tear gas, tasers or thousands of people dragged off in handcuffs.” St. Paul’s Heffelfinger-Luger report, Rowley points out, avoids the question of “whether such aggressive ‘police state’ action during the RNC was actually necessary.” She concludes:

Perhaps the worst mistake made in the RNC Commission Report is falling for the notion of trade-offs between security and liberty instead of seeing them as intertwined. President Obama phrased it well in his inaugural speech statement, when he said “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

After a “Mardi Gras-themed procession” at noon on Tuesday on the state Capitol lawn, Rowley and others plan to file ”Notices of Claim” (pdf) that will contain charges like this:

In the year-long investigation and planning that preceded the RNC and the police enforcement during the RNC, Sept 1-4, 2008, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, along with other state, local and federal law enforcement agencies and private corporations and associations of private companies, including the “Department of Homeland Security’s (now defunct) Highway Watch” and presumably the FBI’s “InfraGard” corporate partnerships did produce faulty and defamatory “intelligence” assertions that linked the organization WAMM that I am a member of to “terror networks”. Ramsey County opened an investigation approximately one year before the RNC that provided the basis of the false claims used to defame WAMM and to violate the privacy rights of WAMM members by then disseminating this information to private corporations, associations and other law enforcement agencies.

Rowley’s public-data requests to the FBI (her former employer) and Ramsey County have so far elicited only a brush-off response from Fletcher’s office (pdf).

Her draft response:

1) If I understand correctly, any data gathered on the other organizations and groups (besides the RNC Welcoming Committee) that I inquired about—to include that gained by viewing their websites–is not contained in separate files but in the same investigative file as the one that has led to prosecution of some of the “RNC Welcoming Committee”. Is that understanding correct?

2) If you are saying that the information your Department has collected on other groups and members of other groups, is all contained in one big file, there still would be no reason it cannot be segregated out for release, would there? Since there are no ongoing prosecutions related to these other groups and members of these other groups? For example: the “Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)”; “Troops Out Now”; the “Anti-War Committee”; “Protest RNC 2008” and other peace and social justice groups are charted out in a “Social Network Analysis” and “Power Centrality Ranking” that links them to the “RNC Welcoming Committee” in a Homeland Security-Highway Watch document that has recently come to light. It’s not clear whether this “intelligence” product was only produced as a result of “viewing their websites” but even if that’s so, wouldn’t there at least be notes and copies made from that law enforcement effort of analyzing the public websites?

3) I have a hard time believing that Ramsey County Sheriff Department informant(s) reported information only on the “RNC-8”. It is precisely the other individuals who are not being prosecuted and about whom information may be contained in the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office that is of interest for the research that Mr. Cox and I are conducting. Are informant report files maintained separately?

4) Again assuming I’m correct in believing that the Ramsey Sheriff Department’s information is contained in one big file that also involves the information collected on the “RNC Welcoming Committee,” what is the name of that file? How is it indexed for retrieval and further use? Was the file opened to contain all investigative data collected in the lead-up to the RNC or was it focused solely on the RNC Welcoming Committee? If the latter, why would the information on other groups and members of groups not connected to the prosecution of the “RNC Welcoming Committee” not be releasable at this time? Can you give me an idea of the size of the file and how many other individuals and groups (not being prosecuted) are documented or referenced in the file?

5) Why did you ask for a delay when first responding to my request back in December, telling me you expected my request to take a lot of time to gather up responsive materials?

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