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Meet Our Clients
On December 2, 2004, the ACLU of Colorado asked the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to disclose documents related to its monitoring and collecting information about the peaceful political activities of 16 organizations and 10 individuals.
The following paragraphs provide some information about each of the ACLU’s clients, along with a brief summary explaining why the ACLU knows or strongly suspects that they have been the subject of FBI political surveillance.
Rocky Mountain Animal Defense works to end human-imposed suffering of animals in the Rocky Mountain region, though public education, investigation and research, the legislative process, direct action, and appeals to reason and compassion. Falsely labeled as “criminal extremist” by the Denver Police Department (DPD) Intelligence Unit, the group’s membership, its peaceful protests, and its constitutionally-protected organizing activities were the subject of numerous pages in the Denver Police Spy Files. Some of those pages indicated that copies were sent to the FBI.
Denver Justice and Peace Committee (DJPC), begun as a faith-based organization in the early 1980s, promotes human rights, economic justice and lasting peace in Latin America through education, solidarity projects, and nonviolent activism. In a currently-pending ACLU lawsuit, DJPC challenges the validity of a search warrant that authorized Golden police to seize the organization’s 800-person membership list as well as any papers, pamphlets, and posters that are “protest-related.” After the search, Golden police provided DJPC’s membership list to the JTTF for what one Golden detective referred to as “cross-referencing.” In addition, documents regarding DJPC appear in a DPD Intelligence Unit file from 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917, its work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. As one of the plaintiffs in the Denver Spy Files case, AFSC learned that the DPD Intelligence Bureau had long monitored the group’s Colorado activities, had falsely labeled it as “criminal extremist,” and had compiled an extensive file, complete with photographs and names, addresses, and license plate numbers of participants in AFSC events. Documents detailing AFSC events appear in a DPD Intelligence Unit file titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
Campaign for Labor Rights, based in Washington, D.C., works through public education and leafleting/picketing campaigns to inform and mobilize grassroots activists in solidarity with major, international anti-sweatshop struggles. In 2000-2001, it organized a national campaign of solidarity with union members who were fighting for better conditions at Chentex plants in Nicaragua. Groups participating in the campaign carried out dozens of nonviolent actions at Kohl’s Department Stores that sold Chentex-produced clothing. After four persons in Santa Claus costumes showed up at one of those protests in Colorado in December, 2000, and vandalized Kohl’s merchandise, the Denver Joint Terrorism Task Force collected 100 pages of documents about the constitutionally-protected activities of the Campaign for Labor Rights.
Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace has been active in Colorado since the early 1990s. It has sponsored numerous peaceful demonstrations and vigils to raise public awareness about the effects of United States policies in the Middle East, with a focus on Iraq and Palestine. The Denver Spy Files revealed that the organization was a frequent target of political surveillance by Denver police, and pages detailing the organization’s First Amendment activities appear in a DPD Intelligence Unit file compiled in 2002 that is titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
Chiapas Coalition is a Denver-based organization that conducts education and advocacy activities in support of the human rights struggle of indigenous persons in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The Denver Spy Files litigation uncovered numerous documents confirming that the DPD Intelligence Bureau, which falsely labeled the Chiapas Coalition as “criminal extremist,” regularly monitored its activities and kept files on members and participants. When activists conducted a meeting with officials at the Mexican consulate to discuss the situation in Chiapas, the DPD sent an undercover officer to attend. The Denver Police freely shared their information about Chiapas Coalition with other law enforcement agencies, and an apparent agenda for a meeting of the Multi-Agency Group Intelligence Conference (MAGIC) lists “Chiapas” and “Mexican Consulate” as items for discussion. Documents related to Chiapas Coalition appear in a DPD Intelligence Unit file compiled in 2002 that is titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
End the Politics of Cruelty (EPOC) is a Denver-based human rights organization that conducts rallies, educational programs, demonstrations, and other activities to promote its views. In recent years it has focused on issues of police accountability in Denver. It was a plaintiff in the Denver Spy Files lawsuit, which uncovered documents demonstrating that Denver police had falsely labeled the group as “criminal extremist” and had shared information about the group’s First Amendment activities with dozens of law enforcement agencies participating in “MAGIC,” the Multi-Agency Group Intelligence Conference. Several pages of documents discussing an EPOC-sponsored program titled “Denver Activist Legal Trainings” appear in a DPD Intelligence Bureau file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
The Human Bean Company, with a retail store at 218 S. Broadway, is a leading Denver example of the growing “fair trade” movement. It supports the struggle of indigenous persons in Chiapas, Mexico by eliminating middlemen and providing a direct commercial outlet for their locally-produced coffee, honey, and other products. It is closely associated with the Chiapas Coalition and one of its organizers, Kerry Appel. Meetings of the Chiapas Coalition have been held at the store, and it was a target of surveillance and monitoring by the DPD’s Intelligence Unit. Documents about The Human Bean Company appear in a DPD Intelligence Bureau file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
American Indian Movement of Colorado (AIM or Colorado AIM), is the subject of one of the most voluminous of the Denver Spy Files, which falsely labeled the organization as “criminal extremist.” Among other activities, Colorado AIM has been active in nonviolent efforts to end the celebration of October 12 as Columbus Day. Denver police shared information about AIM’s political activities not only with the FBI, but also with intelligence officers from a wide variety of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Colorado, including participants at the intelligence-trading meetings of the Multi-Agency Group Intelligence Conference (MAGIC), where AIM appears on a list of items for discussion. Several pages of documents discussing an AIM co-sponsored program titled “Denver Activist Legal Trainings” appear in a DPD Intelligence Bureau file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
Ancient Forest Rescue, labeled falsely in the Denver Spy Files as “criminal extremist,” is an environmental organization dedicated to preserving the biodiversity and ecosystems of Colorado’s forests and roadless areas through education, litigation, and nonviolent direct action. Information from the Denver Spy Files indicates that the organization’s activities have been a target of surveillance by the FBI as well as the DPD Intelligence Unit.
Transform Columbus Day is an alliance of organizations, including Colorado AIM, working to raise public consciousness about the actions of Christopher Columbus and his legacy of oppression and subjugation of Native Americans and to end official celebration of October 12 as Columbus Day. Documents from the Denver Spy Files show that an email detailing information about First Amendment activities planned by Transform Columbus Day in 2002 was received by law enforcement officers and forwarded on to the FBI.
Dandelion Center is a Denver-based social action group that focuses on human rights and civil liberties issues. It sponsors educational forums, produces and distributes literature; organizes rallies and demonstrations; and sponsors training on legal and medical issues for participants in public demonstrations. Several pages of documents discussing a Dandelion Center co-sponsored program titled “Denver Activist Legal Trainings” appear in a DPD Intelligence Bureau file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
Creative Resistance is an activist student organization with a presence at three Colorado college campuses. It began in 2002 as an antiwar group dedicated to channeling its message through creative and artistic means. In addition to organizing antiwar protests, it has appeared at committee hearings to oppose the so-called Academic Bill of Rights and has protested the activities of anti-choice groups on Colorado campuses. In the summer of 2004, JTTF agents visited the faculty sponsor at one campus, displayed photographs of several members, and attempted to ask questions about their political activities.
Citizens for Peace in Space (CPIS), organized in Colorado Springs in 1987 to continue the work of an earlier organization, STARS, (Committee to Stop the Arms Race in Space), and to oppose President Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative. CPIS advocates the demilitarization of outer space and works to heighten public awareness concerning the dangers of, as well as legal and moral issues surrounding, programs instituted by the United States and other nations to expand military weaponry beyond the earth’s atmosphere. As explained below, longtime CPIS member and nonviolence practitioner William Sulzman learned in 2002 that the FBI lists him as a “member of a terrorist organization.” This information likely means that CPIS, despite its commitment to nonviolence, is listed as the “terrorist organization” to which Sulzman belongs, in an FBI database called the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF).
Denver CopWatch is a non-violent grass-roots organization working for increased police accountability. Its volunteers – usually equipped with their trademark video cameras – monitor, photograph, and otherwise document police interactions with citizens at ordinary on-the-street encounters as well as rallies and demonstrations. Copwatch also organizes "know your rights" educational workshops; provides assistance to victims of police abuse; lobbies for police reform, and publishes reports about its observations of police conduct. Denver Copwatch is listed in a document that appears in a DPD Intelligence Bureau file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.” In addition, an FBI “Intelligence Bulletin” circulated in 2003 invited law enforcement agencies to provide their nearest JTTF with information about groups and individuals carrying out such standard Copwatch activities as videotaping police at demonstrations. The widely-criticized FBI Bulletin characterized such videotaping as an “intimidation technique,” which the FBI warned “may be used for documenting potential cases of police brutality and for distribution of information over the internet.” Law enforcement agencies are likely to have interpreted the FBI memo as a request to provide the Joint Terrorism Task Force with information about lawful political activities, including those carried out by Denver Copwatch.
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center has worked for progressive social change on a variety of issues for more than twenty years. Despite the organization’s consistent commitment to what it describes as “unconditional nonviolence,” it was falsely labeled as “criminal extremist” in the Denver Spy Files. In 2003, undercover police officers from the City of Aurora spent several days spying on the organization’s plans for symbolic civil disobedience at Buckley Air Force Base to protest the war in Iraq. Because the organization and its members are consistent participants in antiwar demonstrations, law enforcement agencies responding to the FBI “Intelligence Bulletin” of October 2003, are likely to have provided the JTTF with information about the group’s lawful organizing activities as well as any participation in peaceful civil disobedience. Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center is also listed in a document that appears in a DPD Intelligence Bureau file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
Kirsten Atkins is an environmental activist who attended a peaceful demonstration in Colorado Springs in 2002 to protest the policies of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association. The intelligence unit of the Colorado Springs Police Department took down license numbers of the participants, cross-checked them with Department of Motor Vehicle records to obtain a list of names, including the name of Ms. Atkins, and forwarded that document to JTTF Agent Tom Fisher. An FBI spokesperson admitted that the agency requested and received the list of plate numbers.
William Sulzman, of Colorado Springs, is a former Catholic priest who has spent decades involved in nonviolent resistance to war, militarism, and the spread of nuclear weapons. He has been arrested on several occasions for acts of symbolic civil disobedience. He has a founding member of Citizens for Peace in Space and is closely identified with that organization. Despite his consistent commitment to the principles of nonviolence, an FBI database known as the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF) lists Sulzman as a “member of a terrorist organization.” According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2003 there were more than 7000 individuals listed in VGTOF as "terrorists," many of whom have no criminal records. Ann Davis, "Data Collection Is Up Sharply Following 9/11," Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2003, at B1.
Mark Cohen, a representative of one of the client organizations in the Spy Files lawsuit, had an extensive Denver Police Spy File that dated to 1991, with the initial entry noting that he had written a letter to the editor criticizing certain police actions. Documents from the Spy Files lawsuit indicate that the DPD Intelligence Unit obtained an email that Mr. Cohen sent in 2002 to activists who might be interested in attending a peaceful demonstration about Palestine. The Intelligence Unit forwarded that email to the FBI.
Pavlos Stavropoulos was also a target of political surveillance on several occasions that are documented in the Denver police Spy Files. An email sent by Mr. Stavropoulos about a possible demonstration in Aspen was received by law enforcement officials and forwarded to the Denver Intelligence Unit, which said it would send the information to Tom Fisher at the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Kerry Appel is the owner of the Human Bean Company, a co-founder of the Chiapas Coalition, and was one of the plaintiffs in the Spy Files Litigation. Documents obtained in discovery in that lawsuit indicate that Denver police provided surveillance information about Mr. Appel’s activities to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, and documents related to Mr. Appel’s organizations appear in a DPD Intelligence Unit file compiled in 2002 titled “JTTF Active Case List.”
Sarah Bardwell was an intern at the American Friends Services Committee in the summer of 2004 when four agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, accompanied by Denver police officers in SWAT gear, suddenly appeared at the home in Denver where she lives with other antiwar and social justice activists. They include Mackenzie Liman, on whose behalf this request is also made. The agents, equipped with clipboards and photos of approximately two dozen young activists, posed three questions.
- Are you planning to commit any crimes at the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions in Boston and New York?
- Do you know anyone who is planning any crimes?
- Are you aware that you commit a crime if you have some information but fail to tell the FBI?
This intimidating visit was part of a much-criticized JTTF campaign of home visits, workplace visits, and telephone calls, carried out in Colorado and at least five other states, in which FBI agents posed essentially the same three questions. After the New York Times wrote a front-page article, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the JTTF was engaged in “systematic political harassment and intimidation of legitimate antiwar protesters.”
Scott Silber has worked as an organizer for the Service International Employees Union and also worked with an activist organization centered on the CU Boulder campus called 180-11. In July 2004, at the same time that other Colorado activists received intimidating visits from FBI agents to ask if they planned to commit any crimes at the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions, the FBI called Mr. Silber and asked him to come to the FBI office for a chat. Mr. Silber suspects the timing is not coincidental, and that his name may appear on the FBI’s lists of dissidents who were targeted for questioning about political activities in the summer of 2004.
Stephen Polk is an active participant in Creative Resistance. In the summer of 2004, when JTTF agents were posing intimidating questions to activists about their plans to demonstrate at the political conventions, they displayed Mr. Polk’s photograph to one of the organization’s faculty sponsors and began asking questions about Mr. Polk’s political activities.
Christopher Riederer moved to Denver shortly after graduating from high school in Boulder in June, 2004. The next month, he was confronted by JTTF agents who suddenly appeared at his Denver address, demanding identification and posing questions about whether he planned to commit crimes at the political conventions on the East Coast. One JTTF agent questioned Riederer about a political organization he knew nothing about. The JTTF agent said he based his questions on a flyer that was “in the file,” which listed the address of Riederer’s house and had circulated on the Auraria campus “last year,” before Riederer had moved to Denver.