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The biography of a former police officer in Minnesota discloses fresh details about the breadth of law enforcement spying on political protesters that took place leading up the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
The book has received only scant attention outside of Minnesota since first being published in June of 2009. But now-retired officer Richard Greelis from the Bloomington Police Department near Minneapolis reveals that local authorities quarreled over who would get to plant informants in political-protest groups, created their own activist organization with an “appropriately provocative name” and laughed about getting paid to participate in a monthly demonstration bike ride known as Critical Mass that encourages alternative transportation.
Political activists have posted sections of the book online and point to it as evidence that law enforcement officials overstepped their boundaries in gathering intelligence on protesters and infiltrating groups engaged in First Amendment-protected activities.
Titled simply “CopBook,” Greelis says that another “certain law enforcement administrator” who is not identified sought to be the lead official for security planning at the RNC among local authorities. Giving him the pseudonym “Chicken Little,” Greelis describes the official as wanting credit for “saving” St. Paul and the approximately 45,000 people who were expected to attend the Republican Party’s nominating bash.
It’s possible the unnamed official is Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, who coordinated what became the most aggressive effort to collect information on political activists planning to protest the GOP’s agenda during the convention. Authorities considered the protesters – namely a group calling itself the RNC Welcoming Committee – a possible terrorist threat with plans to disrupt the convention, and eight locals were arrested at the height of global media attention on the city just as the event kicked off.
According to Greelis:
[Chicken Little] had a longtime, reliable undercover in the Welcoming Committee who was getting him good intel. When he learned that our intel unit had inserted a source into the group as well, he became adamant that we remove him; adamant enough that he followed our intel unit back to Bloomington from a surveillance in Minneapolis, and performed a traffic stop on the truck I was driving. … As he approached the passenger side of my truck, [Greelis’s partner] reluctantly lowered her window. Expecting obsequiousness, or at least acquiescence, he was disappointed to find that [we] defended our position and strategy. Though I had a good, working relationship with Little’s intel commander, there had been some miscommunication between agencies, and Little overreacted like a spoiled child.
The eight people arrested were ultimately charged with “conspiracy to riot in the furtherance of terrorism,” a relatively new state law passed after Sept. 11 and used for the first time during the convention. A county prosecutor later dropped the terrorism enhancements, however, complaining that they “complicated” the case. The group still faces lesser charges today.
According to the book, Greelis worried of losing his own cover while secretly attending a meeting held by protesters at a public library. Greelis realized that among panel participants was a former FBI agent he knew named Colleen Rowley who in recent years has become a vocal critic of police spying on political activists. But Rowley didn't say anything.