A federal judge yesterday rejected New York City's efforts to prevent the release of nearly 2,000 pages of raw intelligence reports and other documents detailing the Police Department's covert surveillance of protest groups and individual activists before the Republican National Convention in 2004.
In a 20-page ruling, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV ordered the disclosure of hundreds of field intelligence reports by undercover investigators who infiltrated and compiled dossiers on protest groups in a huge operation that the police said was needed to head off violence and disruptions at the convention.
But at the behest of the city and with the concurrence of civil liberties lawyers representing plaintiffs swept up in mass arrests during the convention, the judge agreed to the deletion of sensitive information in the documents to protect the identities of undercover officers and confidential informants and to safeguard police investigative methods and the privacy of individuals caught up in investigations.
The city had largely based its bid for nondisclosure on the need to protect those identities and methods, and argued that the public might misinterpret the documents or the news media sensationalize them. But the civil liberties lawyers insisted that the documents - even without the sensitive materials - were needed to show in court that the police had overstepped legal boundaries in arresting, detaining and fingerprinting hundreds of people instead of handing out summonses for minor offenses. Read on...