LOS ANGELES - The three California ACLU affiliates are filing Public Records Act requests today seeking information about the state Office of Homeland Security's (OHS) reported tracking of First Amendment activity.
On July 1, the Los Angeles Times reported several incidents involving OHS's spying on political protest throughout the state. The PRA requests were filed with the offices of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Bill Locker on behalf of 100,000 members of the ACLU.
"We are concerned about the government spying on people throughout the state who have done nothing more than go to a rally," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. 'We hope the Governor and the Attorney General will be accountable for their actions and fully cooperate with this request.'
The Los Angeles Times reported that an anti-war protest in Walnut Creek attended by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), an animal rights rally in San Francisco and a Women's International League for Peace and Freedom anti-war rally in Santa Barbara were monitored by the Governor's Office of Homeland Security, according to documents obtained by the Times.
In the PRA request the ACLU thanks Bill Lockyer's "public statements supporting the right of the people to exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of government surveillance" but expresses concern about the possible lack of action taken by the AG's office in response to issues raised internally regarding the actions and authority of OHS. The PRA cites internal Justice Department documents as well as a whistleblower complaint lodged by Ed Manavian, former Bureau Chief of the Criminal Intelligence Division.
"The tracking of political protests by Homeland Security is invasive and inconsistent with the state constitutional right to privacy" said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California."To get to the bottom of this, we are seeking all documents related to regulations, oversight, and actions taken by both offices with regard to the OHS. The right of Californians to voice their views on issues of public concern without fear of government monitoring must be vigorously protected."
The California Public Records Act requires a response within 10 working days of receipt of a request.