Handschu v. Bureau of Special Services – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket 1985-1986

CCR attorneys here intervened on behalf of political organi­zations and individuals who oppose the terms of settlement in a federal lawsuit, New York’s “Red Squad” case.

In an attempt to end political spying by the New York City Police Department, this suit was begun in the early 1970s.

The original plaintiffs were political activists and the case was certified as a class action covering all people who might be subjects of political surveillance by the police department. Although the city’s police have for years kept extensive files on thousands of New Yorkers, no investigation was ever the files or the extent of the spying. As the case was called for trial, the plaintiffs entered into what CCR’s clients believe to be a bad settlement.

The settlement authorizes political spying on groups whose activities are protected by the First Amendment. The police are not required to show that such groups are involved in crim­ inal activities. Moreover, the settlement permits the infiltration of such groups by undercover agents. The settlement allows police manipulation of the groups by the use of dis ruptive practices reminiscent of the notorious FBI COINTELPRO program.

The CCR, with Marshall Perlin of the Fund for Open Information and Accountability , took the initiative in oppos­ ing the settlement. In May 1985, however, the court upheld it. The CCR and the National Emergency Civil Liberties Com­mittee are appealing on behalf of their clients.

Michael Ratner, Margaret Ratner, David Scribner, with Marshall Perlin, Victor Rabinowitz, Michael Krinsky, John Abt, CCR cooperating attorney Elizabeth M. Fink, Martin Popper, 0. Stephen Paganuzzi