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State Police Hides Secret Spying Program from Illinoisans

The Arab American Action Network, a grassroots community organizing and social services institution based in Southwest Chicagoland, issued a call Thursday for the Illinois State Police to turn over records about a secret surveillance initiative known as the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative.

AAAN filed a lawsuit to uncover these records in February; the ISP filed a response in state court to keep these records hidden from the public.

On Friday, the AAAN appeared for the first time in court, to once again demand that the ISP turn over its records. The SAR Initiative infringes on the civil rights of Illinoisans, especially members of the Arab and Muslim community whose everyday activities are often deemed "suspicious."

On December 21, 2017, the AAAN requested records from the ISP, including blank copies of forms and reports used to surveil Illinois residents; statistical records tracking the prevalence of Suspicious Activity Reports; and training materials regarding Suspicious Activity Reporting practices. The ISP failed to provide these records, providing only certificates of training and a single statistic.

"The secret spying program operated by the Illinois State Police threatens the free speech and privacy rights of all Chicagoans, and we believe specifically targets members of the Arab and Muslim communities," said Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer for the AAAN. "Nobody should be afraid to meet friends in public, express views on social media, or organize politically. We call on the Illinois State Police to end their policy of secrecy and to stop hiding basic information about their publicly funded activities."

"From the 1969 police murder of Fred Hampton to recent police infiltrations of racial and social justice organizations, including Movement for Black Lives groups and Occupy Chicago, police in Illinois have criminalized the basic civil right of political activity," said Wally Hilke, an attorney with Community Activism Law Alliance representing AAAN. "This lawsuit demands that the unaccountable, secret surveillance program run by the Illinois State Police be subjected to public scrutiny."

"Our first goal is for the Illinois State Police to put their program in the light of day, so the public can evaluate it," said Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the AAAN. "Ultimately, we're confident that the public will demand an end to this public spying program, which criminalizes residents based on their race, their national origin, the language they speak, and their political beliefs."

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See also:

* Sun-Times: Chicago-Based Arab American Group Calls State Police Surveillance 'Discriminatory.'

* ACLU: Where's The Suspicion In Government's "Suspicious Activity" Reports?

* The Nation: Mass Surveillance Begins At The Local Level. So Does The Resistance To It.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on June 8, 2019


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