Seattle NION - LEIU Facts
Tom Ridge, director of the new Homeland Security Department, is the invited keynote speaker. Title of keynote address:
The criminal intelligence process and its effectiveness among all levels of law enforcement, the military and the private sector since September 11
What is the LEIU?
The LEIU is a loosely-associated group of law enforcement and intelligence officers, whose private network of affiliations allows information to be shared between agencies. It was created in 1956 by the California Department of Justice. It first included representatives of 26 law enforcement agencies from seven western states but now includes more than 250 police forces from the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Mexico and Great Britain.
The original format of LEIU information
was hundreds of 5 x 8" index cards distributed to member police agencies.
Each card listed, among other data, the individual's name, alias, occupation,
family members, vehicles, associates, arrests, modus operandi, and physical
traits. The subject of a card may be a person suspected of a specific crime;
a person suspected of aiding, directly or indirectly, those involved in
organized crime; or a person who is "associated" with a principal suspect.
"Associates" might be individuals entirely innocent of crime, including
family members, business associates, or attorneys of the principal suspects
(3). This data has since been computerized, using federal funds (4).
What is the purpose of the LEIU?
"The [official] main
purpose of this organization, which is a voluntary confederation of police
agencies, is to exchange information on organized crime and certain criminals."
(1) The unofficial purpose was to establish a national criminal intelligence
network independent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose agents
frequently refused to share information with local law enforcement officers
Why should I be concerned?
A 1974 suit filed against the Chicago Police Department by the Alliance to End Repression revealed that LEIU files were kept "on a University of Washington profession; a teacher of the Republican of New Africa, a southern black separate movement; a member of the Black Panther party; a member of the Communist Party and members of the American Indian Movement." (5)
A 1979 investigation of LEIU by the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners found that many LEIU subject cards contained information on persons "not apparently related to criminal activities." (2) "Among the subjects catalogued in LEIU files have been minority, labor and community organizers, many with no criminal records." (6)
In 1991, investigative author Frank Donner's book, Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America, documented political repression practiced by urban police. Donner described the LEIU as a private organization which served as a conduit for information and technology and may also have helped local departments evade restrictions on their intelligence gathering (7)
A May 10, 1993 San Francisco Chronicle
article revealed how local police secretly use the LEIU to preserve intelligence
files that are supposed to be destroyed. (8)
Isn’t that illegal?
Yes. There are local, state, and federal laws that restrict the circumstances under which police and other law enforcement officials can gather and disseminate intelligence on political activists, organizers, and protesters. However, the LEIU is viewed as a private organization, even though it is composed of law enforcement agencies that use tax dollars to pay LEIU dues and fees. Therefore, the LEIU is not subject to governmental oversight or the Freedom of Information Act.
In 1982, the ACLU Foundation of Northern
California sued the California Department of Justice. Under the California
Public Records Act, modeled after the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU
sued to gain access to the DOJ’s LEIU index cards. The trial court
found in favor of the ACLU. But the California Supreme Court found
that the burden of separating exempt from non-exempt information before
handing the cards over to the ACLU was too great, and ruled in favor of
the State (3).
Is the Seattle Police Department involved with the LEIU?
Yes. The Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 14.12 sets out regulations to "permit the collection and recording of information for law enforcement purposes, so long as these police activities do not unreasonably: (a) infringe upon individual rights, liberties, and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States or of the State -- including, among others, the freedom of speech, press, association, and assembly; liberty of conscience; the exercise of religion; and the right to petition government for redress of grievances; or (b) violate an individual's right to privacy. This ordinance is not intended to protect criminal activity." (SMC 14.12.010 Statement of purpose). (9)
Subsection 14.12.020 states that, "No person shall become the subject of the collection of information on account of a lawful exercise of a constitutional right or civil liberty; no information shall be collected upon a person who is active in politics or community affairs, unless under the same or similar circumstances the information would be collected upon another person who did not participate actively in politics or community affairs." SMC 14.12.020 Policies, Subsection A.
The ordinance also provides for "in-place audit of Department files and records at unscheduled intervals not to exceed one hundred eighty (180) days since the last audit" (SMC 14.12.330 Audit Procedures and Standards).
Unfortunately, the Auditor does not have access to "Files maintained exclusively for confidential criminal information regarding organized criminal activity received by the Department through membership in the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU)" (Section 14.12.320 Limitations on the Auditor). These files are audited by the chief of the Seattle Police Department and are maintained separately from other SPD department files (subsection C3).
The Chief submits a report to the City, which includes "a description of each type of document audited without disclosing its contents, the number of each type of document audited, the number of documents received from LEIU,…and the number of documents received from designated LEIU…representatives. The Chief's report shall also include a current set of bylaws for LEIU…. The Mayor shall certify the report as the final audit to the City Council, the City Attorney, and the City Clerk for filing as a public record" (subsection D). The most recent report, for the audit completed July 25, 2002, states that the SPD has 10,977 LEIU subject entries, those dealing with the identification of criminal subjects and criminally oriented associates (Clerk File No. 305363).
The Seattle City Council is aware of the interaction between the Seattle Police Department and LEIU because they must approve the filing of the SPD Chief’s report each year (Clerk File No. 305363, 304973, etc.). This has been happening in some form at least since 1983 (10).
Civil Liberties Union v. LEIU
(1) "Intelligence Systems – L.E.I.U. - An Early System" Police Chief, 1971, pp. 30
(3) American Civil Liberties Union Foundation v. Deukmejian, 32 Cal.3d 440 [S.F. No. 24207. Supreme Court of California. September 27, 1982.]
(4) "Interstate Organized Crime Index", published by the US Comptroller General, 1979 (see Abstract number 58026 in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service database http://abstractsdb.ncjrs.org/content/AbstractsDB_Search.asp
(5) Bill Richards, "U.S.-Funded Police Unit Spied on Activists, Documents Show" The Washington Post, September 22, 1978 p.A24.
(6) David Kaplan, California's Center for Investigative Reporting, 1985
(7) Monthly Review, November 1991
(8) Bill Wallace, "Experts Say Police
Files Are Kept by Private Groups Nationwide." The San Francisco Chronicle,
(9) City Ordinances and Seattle Municipal Code can be searched at http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/clrkhome.htm
(10) The Comptroller Files/Clerk Files can be searched at http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/cfcf1.htm
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