By Gautham Nagesh - 06/29/10 10:36 PM EDT
German told Hillicon Valley the report shows that law enforcement and federal officials are working closely to monitor the political activity of individuals deemed suspicious, an activity that was previously common during the Cold War. That includes protests, religious activities and other rights protected by the first amendment, German said.
"Our review of these practices has found that Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public,” German said.
German said the spying could take the form of listening to phone calls, intercepting wireless communications, harassing photographers or infilitrating protest groups. He said agencies' are increasingly connected through various information sharing measures, making it more likely that information collected on an individual by a small police department could end up in an FBI or CIA database.
He also accused the FBI of monitoring peaceful protest groups and in some cases attempting to prevent protest activities. One example he gave was a recent ACLU settlement in Washington state after law enforcement arrested an individual on his way to an anti-war protest.
German attributed the increase in domestic political surveillance to an erosion of the standards of privacy and civil liberties in the wake of 9/11. He pointed to the Patriot Act as a large factor, claiming it authorizes law enforcement to use tools domestically that were formerly restricted to hostile groups in foreign nations.