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NYPD surveillance prior to the 2004 GOP convention: a list

About 600 pages of previously secret documents were released this week, records of the NYPD's surveillance activities in advance of the 2004 GOP convention.

The NY Times has published the Intelligence Digests here, with links to .pdf files of the original declassified documents. I thought it would be handy, though, if somebody went through and made a list of every name that comes up, so here.
About 600 pages of previously secret documents were released this week, records of the NYPD's surveillance activities in advance of the 2004 GOP convention.

The NY Times has published the Intelligence Digests here, with links to .pdf files of the original declassified documents. I thought it would be handy, though, if somebody went through and made a list of every name that comes up, so here.

Absolutely do not leap to conclusions. Just because a name here appears does not mean that the person or group was under extensive, active surveillance. In many cases, the NYPD clearly got their information from press releases and public press conferences. This is obvious from reading just a handful of the pdfs.

Then again, there clearly was also a lot of spying involved, too. The Times has already reported that the NYPD sent officers nationwide and across half of Canada, and the vast majority of their targets were peaceful groups operating fully within the law -- primarily church groups, environmentalists, peace activists and other organizations whose opposition to the GOP is supposed to be completely protected by the United States Constitution.

Predictably, most of the groups fall politically somewhere between Barack and Che, but the names aren't just all left-leaning. You'll also find the Klan, Randall Terry, and Fred Phelps's nutball gay-hating church in here. And many of the names don't even need surveillance, unless MSNBC, the Quakers, and the American Gas Association are planning to gang up and knock the windows out of Starbucks.

A few of the names are also pretty wonderful, just by themselves. I mean, who wouldn't want to party with the Zombie Flash Mob, Dogs Against Republicans, the Johnny Cash Bloc, the Surveillance Camera Players, or -- my favorite name -- the Shadowy Revolutionary Cell? I mean, come on. Those all sound like fun people.

So, anyhow, for other people's convenience and because I was curious myself, and with no pretense of knowing what any of this means -- that's for you to sort out -- here's the list of names that come up in the documents, completely unfiltered, presented roughly in alphabetical order. Some of these names may be slightly misidentified, and it's probable that one or two appear more than once here. I repeat: just because a name appears does not mean that the person or group was under extensive, active surveillance.

But they might have been. You'll have to check further yourself.

1199 Bread and Roses Culture Project
9/11 Family Group
A31 Action Coalition
Aaron "Pieman" Kay
Accountability Project
Act Now To Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.)
Act Up
Act Up New York
Act Up Philadelphia
Act Up Washington DC
Activists for the Liberation of Palestine
American Friends Service Committee
American Gas Association
Anarchist Black Cross Federation
Anarchist People of Color
Ann Stauber
Anthony Weiner
Arab Muslim American Foundation
Atheists NYC
Axis of Eve
Bands Against Bush (at the Knitting Factory)
Bands Against New York
Bergen Action Network
Big Noise Films
Bike Blocs
Bill Perkins
Billionaires for Bush
Black Tea Society
Books Not Bombs Peace Convergence
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Burdock 2004
Burning Desire Cluster
Cabbies Against Bush
Camp Shutdown
Campaign to Demilitarize the Police
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
Canadian Federation of Students
Center for Anti-Violence Education
Charles Barron (Brooklyn city councilman)
Charles Rangel (Democratic Congressman from NY)
Chinatown Justice Project
Christian Defense Coalition
Christopher Hackett
Coalition of Artists and Activists
Coalition of Fire and Police Unions
CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Commercial Driver Group Calling
Committee for Social Justice in Columbia
Community Coalition
Constitutional Rights Enforcement & Support Team (C.R.E.S.T.)
Continental Direct Action Network
Counter Convention.org
Crimethinc Black Hat Hacker's Bloc
Critical Mass
Critical Resistance
CUNY Students and Faculty
Daniel Andreas
Darfur Rehabilitation
David Weprin
Deep Dish TV
Democratic National Committee
Dennis Griggs
Direct Action Democracy
Direct Action Network
Disabled American Veterans
Dogs Against Republicans
Earth Activist Training (E.A.T.)
Falun Gong
Federation of East Village Artists
Food Not Bombs
Gabriela Network
Gays Against Bush
Geoffrey Blank
Grandmothers Against War
Grassroots Coalition Against Media Organizations
Green Bloc
Green Dragon
Green Party
Haitian Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network
High Grounds Veteran Reunion
High Times
Hip Hop Summit Action Network
Human Rights Campaign
Huntingdon Life Science
Immigrant Solidarity Network
Independent Media Center of New York
Industrial Workers of the World
Infernal Noise Brigade
Information Liberation Front
Interfaith Ring of Hope
International Action Center
International Answer Center
International Solidarity Movement
Jaggi Singh
Jason Blank
Jeremiah Gutman
Jeremy Conrad
Jerry Goralnick
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Jim Lesczynski
Joel Meyers
Johnny Cash Bloc
Jonathan Jackson (independent filmmaker)
Judson Memorial Church
Justice Not War in the Phillippines Campaign
Kensington Welfare Rights Union
Ku Klux Klan
Lawrence Anarchists
Leslie Cagan
Liberty Rising
Light Up the Sky
Lisa Fithian (Continental Action Network)
Living Theatre
Long Island Peace Train
Lower East Side Collective
M27 Coalition
Madagascar Institute
Man & Woman In Black Bloc
Manhattan Libertarian Party
Manhattan Neighborhood Network
Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyer's Guild
Medical Activists of New York City
Millions for Reparations
Miriam "Starhawk" Simos
Mobilization 2004
Mothers Opposing Bush
Mouse Bloc
National Council of Arab Americans
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
National Lawyers Guild
National Youth and Student Peace Coalition
New Democratic Majority
New Immigrant Coalition
New Jersey Anti-Racist Action
New York City Anarchist Tribes
New York Civil Liberties Union
New York Host Committee
New York Lawyers Guild Mass Defense
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence
No Police State Coalition
No RNC Clearing House
No RNC Welcoming Committee
North American Anarchist
North Star Foundation
Northern Manhattan Democrats for Change
Not In Our Name
NOW-National Organization for Women
NY Metro Area Postal Unions
NY Peoples Law Collective
NY Youth Bloc
NYC AIDS Housing Network
NYC Atheists
NYC Central Labor Council
NYC Comms Collective
NYC Direct Action Network
NYC Labor Against the Law
NYC Life After Capitalism
NYC Peoples Law Collective
NYC War Tax Resistance
One People's Project
One Thousand Coffins
Operation Witness
Pagan Bloc
Pagan Cluster
Palestine Action Union Square East
Paper Tiger
Party Liberation Front
Patrick Dillon
Pax Christi
Peace Fresno Anti-War Activist Group
People's Free Space
People's Law Collective
Picture the Homeless
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Planned Parenthood NYC
Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign
Pretty Good Privacy
Prometheus Radio Project
Protest Warriors
Queer Bloc
Queers for Peace and Justice
Randall Terry
Rant Collective
Reclaim the Streets
Restaurant Opportunity Center of New York
Revolutionary Cells - Liberation Brigade
Ring Out
Rise We Rise
Rise Up
RNC Not Welcome
RNC Shut Down Coalition
RNC Youth
Root Activist Training Network
Ruckus Society
Run Against Bush
Ryan Perry
San Francisco Video Activist Network
School of the Americas Watch
Seeds of Peace
Septembter 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Shadowy Revolutionary Cell
Sierra Club
Singles Against the War Party
Socialist Party
Society for Truth and Justice
Still We Rise Coalition
Storm Collective
Student Peace Coalition
Stuyvesant High School Students
Suffolk Peace Network
Surveillance Camera Players
Syracuse Peace Council
Take Back the Future
Ted Rall
Tejas Bloc
Theaters Against War
Times Up
Un-Conventional TV
Union Square Middle East Peace Coalition
United for Peace and Justice
Veterans for Peace
Vietnam Veterans Against War
Viking Bloc
War Resisters League
Westboro Baptist Church (Rev. Fred Phelps)
Wetlands Preserve
Women in Black
Young Democratic Socialists
Youth Bloc
Youth Channel
Zombie Flash Mob


Surveillance Camera Players 21.May.2007 08:31


see our statement on this matter


Surveillance Camera Players: official statement 21.May.2007 10:02


NYPD Surveillance Before and During the RNC

Of course, we are not at all surprised that -- during the course of its truly extensive surveillance of political activists who intended and/or actually managed to protest against the cynical decision to hold the 2004 Republic National Convention (RNC) in New York City, just three years after the September 11th 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center -- the New York Police Department (NYPD) paid a fair amount of attention to us.

We are mentioned a total of five times in the surveillance reports that were assembled by the NYPD's "Intelligence Division" between 3 October 2003 and 4 September 2004, and finally released to the public on 16 May 2007 due to a court order that the NYPD decided not to appeal. Two of these references, which can be located under "Key Findings" for 13 February 2004 and in a report by the "Research and Analysis Squad" for 11 March 2004, are substantive. Brought together, but without changing a word, these reports[1] say that:

The Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) is a self-described anarchist group founded in NYC in 1996. It primary focus is to protest the use of surveillance cameras in public places. The group is apolitical, aligning itself with no political party, citing the belief that democracy should be direct, not "representative."

The total membership is unknown, but SCP encourages others to perform the acts as they do without necessarily recruiting them, so the actual number of persons involved in this sort of activity can be significantly greater than actual membership.

SCP conducts walking tours of Manhattan to point out the locations of surveillance cameras, demonstrating how these cameras "infringe on the Constitutional rights" of New Yorkers who are unaware that they are being filmed. The group has conducted these tours in security-sensitive locations such as the United Nations and City Hall. These events, which are publicized on the Internet have usually attracted up to 15 participants. As of this date, these events have occurred without incidents. In one such tour, it was suggested by a group member that wires necessary to operate a particular surveillance device was easily accessible, and therefore vulnerable.

The group also conducts and encourages others to conduct "Surveillance Camera Theater." This entails performing short plays in front of security cameras, generally lasting two minutes.

SCP maintains a website, www.notbored.com, that includes their beliefs, past and future activities, and information about similar groups worldwide. On their website, the group encourages performers to disperse at the order of a police officer and avoid arrest, but adds "only get arrested when you want to get arrested." The site also includes a page that lists the military and governmental visitors to the site, which SCP pledges to keep updated as the RNC approaches.

Information from the group's website indicates that it will be active during the RNC. The site contains a map with camera locations in the general vicinity of the RNC site. The area detailed on the site encompasses 11th Avenue to 6th Avenue from W 32d to W 38th Streets. SCP has organized the cameras into groups according to who they think is maintaining them (NYPD, Traffic, Private, etc.), along with the number of devices maintained. The legend reads as follows: Private surveillance cameras, 217; Government Surveillance cameras, 12; New York City or NYPD cameras, 5; Traffic surveillance cameras, 3; Elevated surveillance cameras, 2. The total number of cameras mapped by SCP is 239.

The group plans the following actions during the convention: update and distribute its map; "inform" protestors, RNC delegates and the media about the level of surveillance they will face when they come to New York City; perform in front of publicly installed surveillance cameras (the times and places will be announced forehand, presumably via their site); a walking tour of the convention area each day that the RNC is in session (meeting times and locations announced beforehand).

The page on their site dedicated to the RNC reiterates their claim that the group does not condone criminal acts nor does it intend for any information it shares on the site to be taken as an encouragement to commit crimes.

There are remarkably few errors here, certainly much fewer than in the articles published about us in such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc. etc. Just because we are not part of the two-party electoral spectacle does not make us "apolitical"; our walking tours have "attracted" as many as 25 people; our website is not "www.notbored.com" but "www.notbored.org/the-scp.html." But these are insignificant errors, hardly worth correcting. This much should be clear to all: these reports were certainly not written by "average" cops: they were written by highly educated people who are trained writers. That is to say, by professionals, by professional intelligence analysts.

As we have said, we were not at all surprised. Our political activity in part directly concerns the NYPD[2]; as early as December 2001 we had surmised that the NYPD was aware of our existence and had been issued orders on how to deal with us[3]; and, as the NYPD's own report(s) indicate, for many years prior to the RNC we had used a few simple procedures to determine and list "the military and governmental visitors to the site."[4] Not only was the NYPD keeping tabs on us, but so were the FBI, the NSA, the NRO, the Executive Office of the POTUS, the US military, et al (no doubt they all still are keeping and updating these "tabs").

But what does surprise us -- it even disgusts and outrages us -- is the fact that, despite our reiterated position on violence and the complete absence of any "incidents" during our performances and walking tours, the NYPD has dared to mention us at some length in the document it has published on the www.nyc.gov website[5] to defend itself against various allegations made by, among others, the New York Civil Liberties Union, that such surveillance was in fact unnecessary and in violation of the law. Under "Republican National Convention Open Source Threat" -- which claims to document "excerpts from and descriptions of the various websites, chat-rooms, and other forums in which the planning for various violent or illegal civil disobedience activity was undertaken" [emphasis added] -- the NYPD spin-control team repeats the following information about us:

"Surveillance Camera Players" (SCP), an anarchist group founded in 1996, operated a website (www.notbored.com) with a map detailing the locations of all identified surveillance equipment in the general vicinity of the RNC, including: private surveillance cameras: 217, Government surveillance cameras: 12, New York City or NYPD cameras: 5, Traffic surveillance cameras: 3, Elevated surveillance cameras: 2, Total number of cameras: 239.

In one such tour, it was suggested by a group member that the wires necessary to operate a particular surveillance device were easily accessible and therefore vulnerable.[6]

The very fact that we -- who have no connection to nor involvement in any part whatsoever of what the NYPD calls the "three-part co-mingled threat" of "terrorism, anarchist violence and unlawful civil disobedience" -- are mentioned in this spin-control document proves that the NYPD is dead wrong (mistaken or deliberately lying) when they say that their "information gathering . . . was not political surveillance." Our presence in this list of "threat-related activity" in fact proves that the NYPD were not "indifferent to the political views of any attendees at any activity -- protest or otherwise -- in New York City," and that the NYPD's information gathering did in fact address "political opinions." As a result, the department's "Intelligence Division" should be held accountable for their criminal activity, that is, their illegal surveillance of Constitutionally protected free speech.

Surveillance Camera Players
19 May 2007

[1] See http://iwitnessvideo.info/documents/index.html.

[2] The NYPD made extensive use of video surveillance cameras at the RNC. See http://iwitnessvideo.info/blog/15.html.

[3] See http://www.notbored.org/21dec01.html.

[4] See http://www.notbored.org/army.html.

[5] See http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/dcpi/nypd_rnc_overview.html.

[6] Let's get this matter cleared up: the camera in question is an NYPD camera installed directly in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. It has long been our contention that, there being no crime at this location (that is, not counting the crimes committed inside the church by the representatives of the Vatican), this camera is there simply purely and simply to spy on the political activists who have used this precise location to protest against the Church's positions on contraceptives, abortion, homosexuality, etc. Furthermore, we are not to blame for calling attention to the obvious fact that this precise camera (this "security" device) is in fact almost comically insecure. No: the people who are to blame for 1) dangling an ISDN box from this camera, 2) writing the letters "ISDN" on it, and 3) writing part of the phone number that can be used to access this ISDN box, and thus the camera itself, are in fact the camera's installers and operators: the NYPD itself.

only mainstream coverage of subject I've seen so far 22.May.2007 10:11

SCP administrative services

"The Globe and Mail," for 21 May 2007

NYPD war on terror snags artists

In the hot, fraught summer of 2004, as U.S. officials warned grimly of increasing terrorist chatter in Europe and the Middle East and threat levels remained elevated across the country, these are some of the groups that had the New York Police Department worried: al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and the Surveillance Camera Players.

What's that? You're not familiar with the evil acts of the Surveillance Camera Players (SCP)? How about the Shadowy Revolutionary Cell? Paper Tiger? Green Dragon? Don't feel bad if the names don't ring any bells; fact is, most intelligence agents haven't heard of them. But last week, when the NYPD released a 600-plus-page summary of its surveillance activities leading up to and including the 2004 Republican National Convention, the city got an eye-opening look at what, exactly, its police department considers dangerous. The answer? Not-for-profit theatre groups, musicians, satirical street performers, politically oriented filmmakers, and others who aren't big fans of the Republican Party in general or George W. Bush in particular. Theaters Against War (THAW), LL Cool J, Russell Simmons, the Ruckus Society, the Living Theatre. As the famous
German quote has it: "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning." Evidently, some folks in the NYPD feel the same way.

We know this because the Bloomberg Administration, through the NYPD, drastically overstepped its bounds to ensure the thousands of Republican delegates that flocked into town could interact with New York City in the same way their president interacts with the rest of the world: from safely within a sterile bubble that provides only one-way communication, from the inside-out. (His administration's unwavering support of the NYPD through the entire affair, and their unconstitutional activity, suggests that Bloomberg, who may run for the White House as an indie candidate in '08, probably wouldn't be the best man to restore the civil rights degraded under Bush.)

To ensure things ran smoothly for the delegates, more than 1,800 people were arrested during the week of the convention, which ran Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, 2004. Many were held without charges for longer than 24 hours at a disused bus depot on Pier 57. They were denied satisfactory hygiene and nutrition, as well as communication with the outside world, prompting some to dub the facility, "Guantanamo on the Hudson."

Shortly after the convention, when the NYPD magically dropped about 90 per cent of the charges, some protesters and the NY Civil Liberties Union sued the city over the mass arrests. And though it has been fighting the suit tooth-and-nail, the NYPD finally accepted last week that it would abide by a judge's ruling in April to release details of its surveillance program. Eighteen months before the convention, the NYPD established an RNC Intelligence Squad, sending out agents to other states and other countries (including Canada), as well as scouring the Web and other sources for information on individuals and groups who were likely to stage protests at the RNC.

The Squad apparently got into shape by spying on dozens of events before the RNC itself. They tracked a collection of performers that called itself Bands Against Bush and planned concerts on Oct. 11, 2003 in 10 cities in the U.S. (Seattle, Washington D.C., Boston, the Bay Area) and Ireland. Musical acts, they warned in reports, would be interspersed with political speakers and videos. "Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda," reads the NYPD report issued prior to the event. "Police Departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event," it adds, though it fails to say why other cities should have been concerned. Trolling through the vast summary provided by the NYPD (albeit with some heavy redacting) gives an impression of a city far more on edge than the politicians usually let on.

Danger lurks around every corner. In these pages, possibly legitimate dangers nuzzle up against comically dry accounts of satirists plying their trade. There was, for example, the group known as Axis of Eve, which promised a "flashing" protest against the RNC that would entail, "the participation of roughly 100 women in thong type underwear," stripping down to undergarments, "with pre-printed statements such as 'Fire Bush', 'Expose Bush' and 'Down with Bush.'

Also targeted was the Surveillance Camera Players, an enigmatic 10-year-old organization that highlights the prevalence of surveillance cameras in New York. The group gives weekly walking tours of the downtown camera spots, but it also stages unannounced two minute performances in front of surveillance cameras that are intended for both those monitoring the feeds and passersby on the street whose curiosity might be piqued. In a lengthy explanation of its surveillance activities posted on its website last week, the NYPD categorized the SCP as an organization that contributed to a "violent or illegal civil disobedience activity."

Foul! cried the SCP. "We're very clear, we're a non-violent group," Bill Brown, the cofounder and current director of SCP, said last Friday night. "It's obviously a clear case of abuse, really pushing the definitions around what political surveillance is, or what a threat is."

On first glance, it seemed as if the NYPD had simply caught all of those cultural groups in its surveillance dragnet by accident, like those tuna fishermen who regretfully snag dolphins. After all, the police force is a blunt instrument, and can't be expected to discern nuances. But of course that's the exact role of intelligence agencies: sifting the wheat from the chaff. Which means we have to accept the NYPD really did perceive a threat from what those cultural groups were trying to provide: political and social dissent. This is a country, after all, in which the band of acceptable political discourse is cigarette slim, dominated by two parties that can often seem strikingly similar. Against that backdrop - and the backdrop of a four-daylong stage-managed coronation disguised as a political convention - maybe the artist is the most dangerous element conceivable.

The Theaters Against War website features a quote from Paul Robeson. "I have never separated my work as an artist from my work as a human being," he said. "I've always put it even more strongly, that to me, my art is always a weapon."