Spying On Bicyclists, Actors, And the Sexy

I’ve had a couple of responses to my Sunday post about the New York Times report that NYPD officers conducted undercover operations in Oregon prior to the 2004 RNC convention that wondered what the big deal was. Weren’t they just collecting information on crazies intending to shut down NYC?

NYT reporter Jim Dwyer — who filed that story — wrote articles more than a year ago about some of the tactics used by the NYPD, particularly as they related to bicycle protests like Critical Mass. Linked to the print story are three video reports narrated by Dwyer (see the “Multimedia” section at left for “Video”).

The first video shows three undercover officers who appear at various events, including a memorial ride for a cyclist killed in an accident that had a grand total of fifteen attendees.

The second video describes a case where the multi-million dollar police helicopter with infrared imaging cameras spent four minutes watching a couple get it on at night on the patio of a music executive’s rooftop apartment rather than monitoring the bike ride on the streets far below.

A third video shows a yellow-haired man over several days during the beginning of the RNC convention. In one episode, he appears to be arrested for no reason and hustled away, which leads to people yelling at the police and two of them getting arrested. Except that the yellow-haired man isn’t actually arrested. Or even cuffed, as can be seen on close-ups of video shot at the scene.

These are just the cases where the NYPD’s been caught. On video tape. This kind of surveillance, provocation, and abuse of power is pretty much guaranteed not to catch terrorists. Unless the terrorists are having sex at night in swanky Manhattan penthouses.

I’ve sent a letter to Mayor Tom Potter asking whether the NYPD had the Police Bureau’s sanction to conduct undercover operations in Portland during 2003 and 2004 and whether Mayor Vera Katz authorized them. I’d suggest that if you only want to limit the agencies you’re spied on to the Portland Police, the FBI, and Willamette Week, that you do the same.

BTW: Where the hell is the Oregonian on this? New York cops working undercover in Oregon? Don’t they read the papers?