As the full import of this year’s Federal court case “Blanchard vs. City of Memphis” sinks in, we hear from other cities in Tennessee.
According to the Times Free Press
“Activists say Chattanooga police officers are using fake Facebook profiles to influence public opinion, sow division and discredit law enforcement critics.
They are urging people not to accept friend requests from “Chante Raleigh” or “Taneisha MissLovely Halfacre.” Their warning comes as Chattanooga activists continue to use social media to organize support for Charles Toney Jr., the man at the center of a viral Dec. 3 arrest.”
Within a few days of this article, we hear that MPD’s fake Facebook account, Bob Smith, which was outed during the Memphis trial, has been friending Nashville-based activists. Bob Smith has been identified as MPD Sergeant Timothy Reynolds who appeared in the Federal trial. Reynolds is a 19-year veteran of MPD who was a member of the MPD Homeland Security squad at the time of the surveillance, and is now a part of the Organized Crime Unit, a joint MPD / Shelby Sheriff’s Dept paramilitary force, which became active in political repression around the time of the MLK eve arrests in Memphis on April 3rd, 2018. They frequently appear masked in public.
Statewide Law Enforcement Conspiracy?
Memphis activists might be forgiven for a certain level of paranoia, but the MPD surveillance via social media is real. Facebook recently announced that six bogus accounts belonging to MPD have been closed, including Bob Smith’s. We don’t yet know who the other five are, by the way, despite inquiries to MPD and Facebook.
The facts of MPD’s surveillance of political activists are settled law.
MPD’s State Collaboration
We have written about the collaboration between MPD and the Tennessee Fusion Centers.
Our first Fusion Center post takes from Jeff Winter‘s FOIA and provides details of the organization in every state of “fusion centers” organized in state law enforcement. We track Fusion Center communications between MPD’s “Real Time Crime Center (RTCC)”, which also operates the network of spy cameras and a disguised camera van which MPD uses to make illegal photographs of protest attendees. Sergeant Tim Reynolds (“Bob Smith”) who was a member of the Homeland Security Squad at MPD, testified that he worked closely with the RTCC. The Homeland Security Squad is “sheep dipped”, law enforcement parlance for “paid for by Federal LE”.
As part of the Fusion Center operations, there is extensive training provided by the FBI and Federal LE for local LE agents. In addition, the Fusion Centers provide bogus cover stories for local LE, designed to tie legitimate protesters to alleged terrorist and gang activities.
In Memphis, all this came to light following on our A-list controversy, where the existence of a City blacklist was revealed via an MPD blunder and a vigilant activists who had been briefed on MPD operations.
This became one of the biggest local media stories of 2017 and led directly to the ACLU lawsuit.
MPD and State Law Enforcement Collaboration
Incidental to the A-list controversy, a number of arrests of political activists on April 3rd, 2017, the eve of the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder, by an OCU snatch squad, led to further investigation. OCU – Organized Crime Unit – is the paramilitary police force shared by the City and the Shelby County Sheriff of which Sergeant Tim Reynolds is now a member, having moved on from the Homeland Security Squad.
We obtained a FOIA report from the TN Fusion Center which we analyzed to document the information flow from MPD’s RTCC via social media spying, right up to the Tennessee Commissioner of Homeland Security.
This report adds depth to the nature of State – MPD cooperation in the persecution of political opponents.
This month’s revelation of very similar police activities in other Tennessee cities suggests that LE is operating from a template, boosted by Federal training of LE operatives and deployed over state fusion centers nationwide.
In Memphis, because of the existence of a coordinated activist intelligence gathering cottage industry including Gary Moore’s Who will Watch the Watchers and our own efforts might have been the canary in the coalmine.
The historical accident of the 1978 Consent Decree provided a legal framework. The judge’s order looks to the future. It specifically envisions that the combination of the 1978 Consent Decree and October’s court order will provide a legal framework for a new civil right for the information age, the freedom from police surveillance of first-amendment protected speech.
If Federal, State and local police have created a template for political surveillance of political activity via social media, Memphis has also created two useful templates.
We have shown how to investigate police social media surveillance.
The ACLU has also created, via this year’s court case, a legal template for protecting citizens against these activities.
We are the canary in the coalmine. You’re welcome.