from the first page of a page 1 article in the NYT, i know me and my fixie are on a few of these tapes:
New York Police Covertly Join In at Protest Rallies
By JIM DWYER
Published: December 22, 2005
Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show.
Police Video Caught a Couple's Intimate Moment on a Manhattan Rooftop (December 22, 2005)
In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.
The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.
Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.
Until Sept. 11, the secret monitoring of events where people expressed their opinions was among the most tightly limited of police powers.
Provided with images from the tape, the Police Department's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, did not dispute that they showed officers at work but said that disguised officers had always attended such gatherings - not to investigate political activities but to keep order and protect free speech. Activists, however, say that police officers masquerading as protestors and bicycle riders distort their messages and provoke trouble.
The pictures of the undercover officers were culled from an unofficial archive of civilian and police videotapes by Eileen Clancy, a forensic video analyst who is critical of the tactics. She gave the tapes to The New York Times. Based on what the individuals said, the equipment they carried and their almost immediate release after they had been arrested amid protestors or bicycle riders, The Times concluded that at least 10 officers were incognito at the events.
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, officials at all levels of government considered major changes in various police powers. President Bush acknowledged last Saturday that he has secretly permitted the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant on international telephone calls and e-mail messages in terror investigations.
In New York, the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg persuaded a federal judge in 2003 to enlarge the Police Department's authority to conduct investigations of political, social and religious groups. "We live in a more dangerous, constantly changing world," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.
Before then, very few political organizations or activities were secretly investigated by the Police Department, the result of a 1971 class-action lawsuit that charged the city with abuses in surveillance during the 1960's.
Now the standard for opening inquiries into political activity has been relaxed, full authority to begin surveillance has been restored to the police and federal courts no longer require a special panel to oversee the tactics.
Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said the department did not increase its surveillance of political groups when the restrictions were eased.
The powers obtained after Sept. 11 have been used exclusively "to investigate and thwart terrorists," Mr. Browne said. He would not answer specific questions about the disguised officers. Nor would he describe any limits the department placed on surveillance at public events.
Jethro M. Eisenstein, one of the lawyers who brought the class-action suit 34 years ago, said: "This is a level-headed Police Department, led by a level-headed police commissioner. What in the world are they doing?"
For nearly four decades, civil liberty advocates and police officials have fought over the kinds of procedures needed to avoid excessive intrusion on people expressing their views, to provide accountability in secret police operations and to assure public safety for a city that has been the leading American target of terrorists.
To date, officials say no one has complained of personal damage from the information collected over recent months, but participants in the protests, rallies and other gatherings say the police have been a disruptive presence.