Friday, January 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

5 men sue over anti-terror info-sharing program

Anti Terrorism Lawsuit

James Prigoff speaks during a news conference outside the San Francisco Federal Building on Thursday, July 10, 2014. Prigoff is one of several California men suing the Department of Justice over an information-sharing program designed to help flag potential terrorism activity. Prigoff said he was visited at his California home by a member of a joint-terrorism task force months after trying to photograph a piece of public art in Boston on a natural gas storage tank. (AP Photo/Alex Washburn)

By
From page A1 | July 11, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — Five California men who say they came under police scrutiny for innocent behavior sued the Obama administration Thursday over an information-sharing program designed by the federal government to help flag potential terrorist activity in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The men, including an accountant and a photographer of public art, say law enforcement produced “suspicious activity reports” on them even though they had done nothing wrong. The reports were then disseminated in national counterterrorism databases and prompted the FBI in some cases to make house visits, run background checks or open up files on them, the men allege.

One plaintiff, an accountant of Egyptian descent, said a “suspicious activity report” was filed about him after he tried to make a bulk computer purchase for work from Best Buy. Another man, a biotech industry worker of Pakistani descent, says he aroused suspicion simply while waiting for his mother — who was wearing a hijab, a formal head covering — outside a train station bathroom.

A third plaintiff, 86-year-old James Prigoff, said he was visited at his California home by a member of joint-terrorism task force months after trying to photograph a piece of public art in Boston on a natural gas storage tank.

“Given my age, I lived through the McCarthy era, so I know how false accusations, surveillance and keeping files on innocent people can destroy their careers and lives,” Prigoff said in a statement.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco challenges the legality of the federally designed Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative — a joint effort of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and local and state law enforcement that was launched after the 9/11 attacks to facilitate the sharing of information among agencies across the country.

The initiative encourages local police departments, using guidance from the federal government, to create “suspicious activity reports” when encountering people whose behavior raises concerns that they might be engaged in terrorism plots. The reports are received, stored and analyzed at dozens of fusion centers nationwide largely operated by state and local governments.

According to its website, the program defines suspicious activity as behavior that is “reasonably indicative” of planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity. The government maintains that that definition was developed with input from privacy and civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

But the suit, brought by the ACLU and other groups, says the program encourages racial and religious profiling and sweeps up Americans engaged in legal behavior. It contends that the federal government’s standard for reporting suspicious behavior is overly broad and should be struck down. The complaint names the Justice Department among the defendants because the department has issued standards governing the type of information that should be included in “suspicious activity” reports.

A 1978 Justice Department regulation prohibits the collection of intelligence information unless there’s a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. But civil rights groups say the “suspicious activity” program also expressly permits intelligence gathering related to broad categories of behavior and characteristics — such as requesting a specific hotel room or receiving multiple visitors to that room — where there’s no basis to suspect criminal activity.

In the current lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs, a Muslim convert, says he was flagged by law enforcement as having a “pious demeanor” and “potential access to flight simulators via the Internet.”

“We’ve long been concerned that the federal standards that we’re challenging in this lawsuit are too loose because they allow the reporting of information even when there’s no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” Linda Lye, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California, said in an interview.

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas said the department was reviewing the lawsuit “and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

John Cohen, a former homeland security official who helped develop the suspicious activity reporting program, said the ACLU’s lawsuit is ironic because it attacks a program the civil rights group was deeply involved in.

“They are attacking a program that they helped to design, and they are criticizing language that they actually drafted and provided to the government,” said Cohen, now a professor at Rutgers University’s school of criminal justice.

It’s not the first time nation’s fusion centers — and the “suspicious activity” program — have come under scrutiny.

A 2012 Senate report concluded that fusion centers had improperly collected information, produced little valuable intelligence on terrorism and ballooned out of control. And a Government Accountability Office report last year said more work was needed to ensure that the reports were effective.

“There’s no disagreement that law enforcement actions should be focused only on those individuals exhibiting behaviors associated with criminal activity,” Cohen said. “However, I fear the consequence of a successful ACLU action in this regard will be to eliminate the very tools and protections that are now in place to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans and at the same time aid police in protecting our communities.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Solano summit focuses on ways to end poverty

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 22 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Teens earn right to perform with symphony

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
From classical to Queen: Chamber Players are ready

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Photographer has a passion for color

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
Cadets learn skills for future careers

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
 
‘Souper Bowl’ coming to Solano County

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4

 
SolTrans announces changes to bus routes

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Fairfield police log: Jan. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 2 Comments

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

California’s snow survey shows far less snow than last month

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
State to move more than 2,000 inmates

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Boy Scouts reaches settlement in sex abuse case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Protestors shun sister-city relationship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
City event criticized for Mexican mafia connection

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Tech advances lower chance that driver will die in car crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Family killed man over child custody dispute

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Killer says his ideas influenced family suicide

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
NASA astronaut memorial stirs memories for shuttle veteran

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

‘Anonymized’ credit card data not so anonymous, study shows

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Fort Hood gunman Hasan says he wants to keep top lawyer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Attorney General nominee wins GOP endorsements

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Simultaneous attacks in Egypt’s Sinai kill 26

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Indonesian investigators: Crashed AirAsia flown by co-pilot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Gas blast at Mexico children’s hospital, at least 2 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Families plead for lives of IS hostages as swap hopes fade

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Deadly San Francisco blaze spurs look at fire alarms

By T. Burt McNaughton | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 30, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
 
 
.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Jan. 30, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
My cousin’s 14-year-old son sleeps in the same bed as his grandma

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Jan. 30 through Feb. 5, 2015

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Hilary Duff, George Lopez help in search for stolen dog

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Justin Bieber apologizes for bad behavior in online video

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Musician Geezer Butler arrested in Death Valley altercation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lil Wayne sues mentor’s record label for $51M, seeking split

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jim Parsons to play God in Broadway’s ‘An Act of God’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande to pay tribute to Stevie Wonder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: A tired gimmick weakens thriller ‘Project Almanac’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

‘The Thorn Birds’ author Colleen McCullough dies at age 77

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bernie Mac widow drops malpractice lawsuit against doctor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment Calendar: Jan. 30, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
Desert stars: Celebs converge on Phoenix for Super Bowl 49

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Serena aims for 19th major in Aussie final vs. Sharapova

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Marshawn Lynch talks about why he doesn’t talk to the media

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Vanden boys pull away from feisty Fairfield 86-66

By Brian Arnold | From Page: B7

Gronkowski and Chancellor make for must-see Super Bowl matchup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 30, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Signups for Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
.

Business

Chevrolet polishes its mid-size truck

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Prospect of Chinese cars in US still remain years away

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

McDonald’s under siege as new CEO steps in

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Obama seeks spending spike for defense, domestic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment

Who wants a bite of Hershey…jerky?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Senate passes Keystone XL bill, battles loom

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Gloria Elizabeth Neal

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Joseph Phillip Raiff

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Dzhon Athanc

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9