City Desk

The Vegan Papers

D.C. cops are keeping tabs on a group of animal rights activists, according to the results of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by the lawyer of Defending Animal Rights Today And Tomorrow (DARTT).

Featured in this week's issue of Washington City Paper because of its ongoing battle with Goldman Sachs over the financial giant's alleged connection to an animal research facility, DARTT gets around. The small horde of anti-animal-exploitation campaigners have beleaguered Goldman Sachs lobbyists and bedeviled local fur stores. Metropolitan Police Department e-mails indicate that's a good way to earn yourself some surveillance.

MPD has been watching the group's website and Myspace page, the e-mails indicate, so they can get an idea where and when DARTT will strike. One member of MPD's cloak-and-dagger intelligence branch sends an -email about watching the activists move toward Adriana Furs in Friendship Heights for a protest, after MPD got a heads-up about the demonstration via the web: "All peaceful at this time," he informs superiors.

Though activists might find the attention a bit creepy, intelligence expert David Carter points out that there's nothing illegal about utilizing such "open source" information gathering techniques  to keep track of protest groups. "If you decide to put it out there everyone gets to look at it," he says.

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  • Jeff L

    Just because the information comes from "open sources" does not mean the police have a right to gather it under all circumstances. Under the Police Investigations Concerning First Amendment Activities Act of 2004, MPD needs authorization from higher-ups before conducting even preliminary inquiries into groups' activities involving exercises of the First Amendment rights.

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