The NYPD is not required to release roughly 1,800 pages of documents detailing their surveillance of individuals around the world in the months leading up to the 2004 Republican National Convention, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled yesterday. The 43 page decision [pdf], which overturned a federal judge's ruling last December, was written by José Cabranes, a Clinton nominee. In the ruling, Cabranes wrote that the NYPD field reports were protected by "law enforcement privilege."
The NYCLU has waged a long legal battle on behalf of the 1,000-plus people arrested and detained at "Guantanamo on the Hudson" (picture) during the convention. NYCLU lawyers have sought access to the field reports in order "to rebut claims by the police that its surveillance operations provided a legal basis for arresting and detaining people instead of issuing summonses," City Room reports. But the Court of Appeals sided with the NYPD's contention that "these sensitive materials... would reveal the identities of undercover officers." And have you ever tried redacting 1,800 pages of documents? It's a lot of work!
The three judge panel decided to "reject the idea that the secrecy of the field reports can be protected by disclosing them on an 'attorneys' eyes only' basis and filing them 'under seal.'" After the decision was handed down, city lawyer Celeste Koeleveld said, "As the court recognized, the information in the documents reinforces the city's assertions that the public faced a substantial threat of disruption and violence during the RNC." In a statement, the NYCLU's Chris Dunn said, "While this ruling keeps certain police documents under wraps, nothing about it changes the fact that the NYPD illegally arrested and detained more than 1,000 innocent protesters and bystanders. We remain confident that the courts ultimately will agree with us on this."