Handschu v. Bureau of Special Services – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1982-1983

Center attorneys have intervened on behalf of a number of political organizations and individuals opposing the settle­ment in a federal suit known a New York’s ” Red Squad” case. The case was begun in the early 1970 as an attempt to put an end to political spying by the police department. The original plaintiffs included a number of political activists and the matter was certified as a class action covering all people who might be subjects of political surveillance by the N.Y.City police.

Although the police have kept extensive files on thousands of New Yorkers, there was unfortunately no discovery in the case to determine the precise nature of the file and the extent of the spying. Instead, the case was all but ignored for years until it was called for trial. At that point, the plaintiffs entered into what the CCR’s clients believe to be a bad settlement.

The settlement authorizes political spying on First Amend­ment protected groups without a showing that such groups  are involved in criminal activities. Moreover, it permits the infiltration of such groups by undercover agents as well as their manipulation through the use of practice reminiscent of the FBI COINTELPRO program. Thus, unless this seltle­ment is defeated it will adversely effect millions of New Yorkers for generations to come.

The Center, along with Marshall Perlin of FOIA, Inc., took the initiative in opposing the settlement. Recently, we received answers to a number of interrogatories related to the terms of the proposed settlement. The answers showed that the settlement provides few realistic protections against police spying and will be of use to the interveners efforts to overturn the settlement.

Michael Ratner; David Scribner with Marshall Perlin, Victor Rabinowitz, Michael Krinsky, John Abt, CCR cooperating Attorney Elizabeth Fink, Martin Popper, Steve Paganuzzi, Samuel Gruber