For months, the three reporters were left in the dark as to why the Justice Department had targeted them and who might have authorized the seizures. Now, thanks to newly unsealed court documents related to the investigation, they finally have some answers.
On January 11, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) published more than a dozen documents on how and when its officers can use surveillance technologies, including body cameras, facial recognition technology, and cell phone locators. The agency’s move towards transparency is the result of a three-year-long battle that culminated this summer with the passage of the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act on June 18, 2020.
While leading I & A, Brian Murphy compiled intelligence reports on two journalists–a New York Times reporter and Lawfare’s editor-in-chief– who had published leaked department documents. Murphy also compiled reports analyzing protesters' electronic messages that discussed tactics such as which routes to follow and how to avoid the police.
The lawsuit claims that the filming of demonstrators violates a state law that prohibits collecting information about the political, religious, or social views of an individual or group who are not suspected of criminal activity. The practice could also discourage protesters from attending demonstrations to avoid state surveillance.
“The DEA’s narcotics interdiction tactics are not appropriate measures to address the limited violence that has taken place over the past few days or to monitor peaceful protests,” the letter said. “The expansion of the DEA’s law enforcement authority, including the use of ‘covert surveillance’ and collection of intelligence, is unwarranted and antithetical to the American people’s right to peacefully assemble and to exercise their Constitutional rights without undue Intrusion.”