The Red Squad of the Michigan State Police, noted for its surveillance and files on activists and radical organizations, is under attack. Actions against the intelligence unit include:
*a lawsuit brought by the Fifth Estate and twelve Detroit activists requesting their files and an end to harrassment;
*a bill pending in the State House spcnsored by Perry Bullard which would eliminate the unit, open files in individuals involved, and turn existing files over to the Civil Rights Commission;
*an investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee into surveillance activities by law enforcement agencies and other governmental bodies.
The Red Squad, officially titled the Subversive Activities Investigation Department (SAID), became an issue last fall. At that time, in answer to a letter from Perry Bullard, the State Police revealed the unit has 32 officers, a budget of $770,000 per year, and keeps files on 50,000 Michigan citizens. Although Governor William Milliken promised action to reform SAID during his campaign, as yet no action has occurred to curtail police surveillance activities.
According to the Fifth Estate, surveillance and harassment of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have included everything from minor harassments such as phone taps or having their pictures taken, to losing jobs or being arrested. Mare Stickgold, an attorney with the film filing the case, said the suit asks for "police files to be turned over to the people whose names are mentioned in them," and asserts "police spying for political motives is a violation of the U.S. Constitution."
The suit also is taking on the Detroit police for similar activities. Individuals suing the law enforcement agencies are Selma Goode, James T. Lafferty, Bonnie Garvin, Wayne State University professor James B. Jacobs, radical attorney Abdeen Jamara, Stuart Dowty, Peter Werbe, Janet Goldwasser, and members of the Michigan Association for Consumer Protection - Waker Benkert, Lee Gayer and Cornelius Rorwood.
Even if the Detroiters win their lawsuit, results are likely to be slow coming due to the drawn-out court process. Action by the State House or Senate is likely to somewhat more speedy, particularly if Milliken puts his weight behind some form of legislation.
The legislative probe, which was approved by the Senate last Thursday, will focus on illegal wiretapping, political snooping and industrial piracy. Besides looking at state agencies, the committee is interested in credit clearinghouses and credit reporting agencies operating in the state. Basil Brown, sponsor of the resolution establishing the investigation, said change in the law may result, but felt its most useful function would be making such activities public.
The Fifth Estate is not the only alternative media spied on by the govemment. Documents recently released by the FBI show the Underground Press Syndicale (now known as the Alternative Press Svndicate has been under surveillance since 1966. The government files, revealed during a court suit against the feds, show UPS was the subject of a wide variety of surveillance techniques, including the opening of mail, physical surveillance of the office, obtaining and copying bank records, postage meter records, car rental records, telephone call records, traffic ticket records, income tax records, and various other records. Some of the documents appeared to have been obtained by a breaking-and-entering operation. APS is now considering filing a damage suit under the First Amendment right of a free press.
The FBI has files on a wide variety of individuals and groups, many of whom have no record of criminal activity. These files are available to individuals under the Freedom of Information Act which went into effect earlier this year. To obtain a file, write The Deputy Attorney General, Dept. of Justice, Washington D.C. and include name, date and place of birth. (For CIA files, write Freedom of Information Coordinator, The Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C.).
As yet, state police files cannot be seen. However, earlier this year, Ann Arbor police chief Walter Krasny admitted turning local files on activists over to the state police for safekeeping in the early 70's.
Any non-criminal information on local residents is on file there, and it's likely local police contribute information to those records. Michigan law enforcement groups at local, county and state levels add to the files, according to the State Police Director.