Saturday, February 28, 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

.

US / World

Man shoots wife, himself at Northern Calif. retirement home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
 
Thieves crash car through electronics store in San Francisco

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Some California farmers to go without federal water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
US appeals court: Marathon bombing trial can stay in Boston

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Congress OKs 1-week bill to keep Homeland Security open

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
US rescinds rule requiring judges to move to Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US, Liberia start 1st formal test of ZMapp Ebola virus drug

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Woman knocked out by eggs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Mexico official: Police capture top capo ‘La Tuta’ Gomez

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Well-educated ‘Jihadi John’ no surprise to experts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Unmasking of ‘Jihadi John’ as a London lad shocks Britain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoon: Feb. 28, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
How GOP can resolve immigration mess

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A8, 10 Comments

Unlikely winners of Greece’s surrender on euro

By Mark Gilbert | From Page: A8

 
A remedy for veterans’ care

By Bill Frist And Jim Marshall | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Feb. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Feb. 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
Poem about heaven helps dog owners when beloved pet dies

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

Coca-Cola bottle as art? Atlanta’s High Museum takes a look

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

.

Sports

 
Vaca advances three wrestlers into semis at Masters

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Spurs snap 4-game skid, beat short-handed Kings 107-96

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Thompson scores 25 points, Warriors rout Raptors 113-89

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Casey McGehee’s move to Giants a homecoming of sorts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Kyle Busch released from hospital following foot surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bulls expect Derrick Rose back this season from knee surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Testimony: Several Hernandez texts are missing from phone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Approaching ‘last call’ for NHL GMs to tweak rosters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
PGA Tour to move Match Play to Texas

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Notre Dame president credited for transforming school dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
MLS Commissioner Garber: Hopeful season will start on time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Travis Kvapil’s NASCAR car stolen from hotel before race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
McIlroy to miss cut at Honda Classic; Reed leads

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NHL fines Sharks’ Couture $5,000 for tripping from behind

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Browns agree to terms with quarterback Josh McCown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

This date in sports history for Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

Gas prices soar in California as supply shrinks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Tribes from around US gather to discuss legal marijuana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Uber says database containing driver info was breached

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Signed contracts to buy US homes rise to 18-month high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Fiat Chrysler recalls 467K SUVs for possible stalling

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Southwest nearly done inspecting planes that were grounded

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
5 reasons US economy is stronger than Q4 GDP suggests

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

Gabriel T. Traub

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Maria Kraszewski

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 2/28/2015

Right at Home: Decor made of bicycle parts

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2Comments are off for this post | Gallery

Real estate transactions for Feb. 28, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.80 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3