U.S. Army Spies on the

New York Surveillance Camera Players

On May 4, 2000, the Intelligence Newsletter, based in Paris, France, published the following exclusive report in its 381st issue.

Sources close to the Washington Metropolitan Police have given Intelligence Newsletter details about intelligence units that gather information on anti-globalization militants in the U.S. and elsewhere. In addition, the same sources said that during April 17 [sic] protests in Washington reserve units from the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command helped Washington police keep an eye on demonstrations staged at the World Bank/IMF meetings.

Information on the movements is collected and stored by six Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) centers funded by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance. Initially assigned to the fight against organized crime and terrorism, the RISS also act against any political activist group deemed to be a threat and over the past year it has found itself focussing on anti-globalization groups. It trades information not only with U.S. law enforcement organizations but with police in Canada, Guam, Australia and Puerto Rico. Its information is shared with others via a network called RISSNET.

The six judicial information centers are: the Middle Atlantic-Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN) at Newton, Pennsylvania; the Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center (MOCIC) in Springfield, Missouri; the New England State Police Information Network (NESPIN) at Franklin, Massachussets [sic]; the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC) in Nashville, Tennessee; the Rocky Mountain Information Network (RMIN) in Phoenix, Arizona; and the Western States Information Network (SWIN) in Sacramento, California. To justify their interest in anti-globalization groups from a legal standpoint, the authorities lump them into the category of terrorist organizations. Among those considered as such at present are Global Justice (the group that organized the April 17 [sic] demonstration), Earth First!, Greenpeace, American Indian Movement, Zapatista National Liberation Front and Act Up.

The MAGLOCEN regional center in Newton distributes intelligence on the groups to other police departments via RISSNET, enabling investigators to find links between the movements and look into their finances, telephone calls and membership lists.

The Pentagon is also providing military-grade surveillance technology. Altogether, the Pentagon sent around 700 men from the Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir to assist the Washington police on Aug. [sic] 17 [sic], including specialists in human and signals intelligence. One unit was even strategically located on a fourth floor balcony in a building at 1919 Pennsylvania Avenue with a birds-eye view of most demonstrators. Other federal agencies linked to RISS and RISSNET include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Secret Service, Customs and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

We, the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP), are quite certain of the accuracy of this alarming report, despite the fact that it contains careless errors about the main day of the anti-World Bank/IMF protests in Washington (it was April 16, 2000), precisely because the U.S. Army has been spying on our web site.

We think it is both appalling and alarming that the Army and the other Armed Forces are keeping tabs on the activities of any American political group or organization engaged in lawful protest. Such spying blurs the carefully maintained line between military intelligence gathering and civilian law enforcement, and thus violates the very spirit of democracy. But we think it is especially appalling -- we think it clearly shows the degree to which military personnel are over-stepping their proper bounds -- that the Armed Forces are spying on the SCP. A very small and informally organized group, the SCP engages in an entirely legal form of protest, and is most definitely not a "terrorist" organization. We have never advocated illegal activity, nor have we ever expressed support for either "terrorism" as such or any "terrorist" group.

Though we did not personally participate in the World Bank/IMF protests in Washington, D.C., we are anarchists, and anarchists in general have become perceived as "threats" since the 30 November 1999 anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Furthermore, on 30 November 1999 and then again on May Day 2000, we tried to show the connections between the local struggle here in New York City against the proliferation of surveillance cameras and the global struggle for dignity, freedom and autonomy. And so, though our pro-privacy activities are not directly associated with "anti-globalization," we have been caught in the immense dragnet recently cast by the U.S. Armed Forces.

We assert that none of the groups mentioned by the Intelligence Newsletter -- neither Global Justice, Earth First!, Greenpeace, American Indian Movement, Zapatista National Liberation Front nor Act Up -- are "terrorist" organizations, and that all of them have the right to engage in lawful acts of protest, which is precisely and exclusively what they engage in. We further assert that even if the aforementioned groups are engaging in forms of protest that either include or constitute criminal activities, they must be investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities and in full accord with the laws of the land, not by military authorities.

We hereby call for: 1) the immediate cessation of surveillance of all domestic dissident groups; and 2) an thorough investigation into domestic spying by the U.S. Armed Forces.

[Originally posted 1 June 2000. Updated since then.]

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail SCP@notbored.org

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998