PROOF OF NATIONWIDE POLICE POLITICAL SPYING NETWORK
REVEALED IN CHICAGO LITIGATION
by Chip Berlet
The belated production of a set of correspondence files from
the Chicago Police Department Intelligence Unit (CPD/ID) has
confirmed suspicions that an informal nationwide network for
sharing political dossiers among police and private intelligence
agencies existed for several decades prior to 1975.
The documents were assumed to have been destroyed as part of
an attempt by the Chicago Police Department to sanitize their
intelligence files after a police informant warned superiors
in 1974 that a lawsuit against political spying was planned by a
Chicago coalition group called the Alliance to End Repression and
other activist groups.
"All of the agencies received from, or sent to, the Chicago
Police Department Intelligence Division information regarding the
lawful political activity of citizens," said plaintiff's attorney
The existence of the "Transmittal Files" was inadvertantly
discovered in September of 1984 - seven years after a Federal
Judge had ordered their production in pre-trial discovery
proceedings. The files show that 159 agencies in 33 states
throughout the nation received political spying files from, or
sent such files to, the Chicago Police Department Intelligence
The agencies include 100 municipal police departments, 26
state law enforcement agencies, 16 county sheriffs offices, and
17 other public and private agencies.
"While many concerned civil libertarians have been convinced
of the existence of politically-motivated activity by their local
police, they have frequently been frustrated by the need for
concrete proof." said Frank Donner. Donner, author of The Age of
Surveillance (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1980), the definitive work on
political surveillance in the United States, called for a
"remedial campaign to abolish such abuses."
Gutman, has been providing the police reports to lawyers
pursuing litigation against local police agencies for illegal
political surveillance. He says he is willing to discuss the
terms of a court protective order covering the material with
legitimate legal representatives of individuals or groups
contemplating such litigation. So far eleven attorneys or
representatives of legal groups have contacted Gutman for copies
of relevant documents. Numerous named individuals have asked for
and received copies of their files as well.
According to Gutman, the following examples are typical of
the material discussed in the Transmittal Files:
*The Texas Department of Public Safety ("Texas Rangers")
sought "any pertinent information related to subversive
activities or affiliations" regarding Chicago attorney Terry Yale
Feiertag. The Chicago police responded that attorney Feiertag was
employed by an organization whic provided legal aid to low income
groups and in civil rights cases;
*The Indianapolis Police Department sought "any data"
regarding Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam. The Chicago
police in response sent information about the group's lawful
*The Detroit Police Department sought information regarding
Lucy Montgomery. in response the Chicago police sent Detroit a
four-page report detailing Mrs. Montgomery's lawful political
Although the federal district court on May 4, 1977, ordered
the Chicago Police Department to produce all such transmittal
files, the files were not produced for inspection until September
25, 1984, seven years after the order. The plaintiffs in the
lawsuit filed a motion to have the Chicago Police Department held
in contempt for failing to obey the court order. Federal Judge
Susan Getzendanner denied the motion.
It is almost certain the files originally were intentionally
withheld to prevent discovery by the plaintiffs. However it is
unclear at what point in the lengthy litigation, which saw
defendants take several different legal postures regarding what
documents were covered by the discovery order, that the fact of
the files existence became lost in the mountains of paperwork.
The Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago sought to
block Gutman from providing the documents to plaintiffs
litigators in other cities. This is ironic because the current
Mayor, Harold Washington, was for many years an outspoken critic
of the CPD Intelligence Unit and its civil liberties violations.
While still a Congressional Representative and while running for
the Mayoral post, he described himself publicly as a victim of
illegal police spying.
Now, in a recent court proceeding, attorneys representing
the City of Chicago tried unsuccessfully to block paralegals
working on an ACLU spying case in California from having access
to CPD/ID materials already provided to the ACLU attorneys in
The City of Chicago attorneys successfully blocked release
of files relating to Michigan to Michigan state representative
Perry Bullard. Bullard, Chairperson of the Michigan House
Judiciary Committee, had requested access to the files to
evaluate "the necessity for new state legislation regulating
surveillance by Michigan state and local law enforcement
agencies." Judge Getzendanner, who has expressed thinly-veiled
displeasure from the bench that the case remains on the docket,
ruled that a subpoena from the Michigan legislative body would be
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