Historical Surveillance Sites and sources
Seattle Surveillance History
Surveillance practices in the 1960s and '70s in Seattle led to an ordinance,
which was the first of its kind in the country, which prohibited surveillance
of individuals or groups based only on their political views. The law bans gathering
information about a person's religious or political affiliations, beliefs or
activities, unless there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person
is involved in criminal activity. The Seattle Intelligence Ordinance was developed
in response to revelations that the Seattle Police Department had been conducting
surveillance of political activities and maintaining files on hundreds non-criminal
organizations and their members. The files, which contained unsubstantiated
and/or false statements about citizens' activities, were shared between law
agencies as fact.
For middle class consumers, the financial, medical, and marketing industries
and their thirst for more information about us is an invasion. For younger
people, it is probably the education system and the evaluations-SAT, ACT,
LSAT, grade point average and other assessments-which have now become part
of their easily traceable, permanent record. For lower class and citizens
of color, it is the police-with driving while black policies, profiling, and
life under what appears to be an ongoing premise of "reasonable suspicion."
The use of a civilian auditor protects the "public." The auditor
not only reports to the chief of police, but can also reveal violations of
the law publicly, which is where the law could create problems.
A year ago a debate was reopened as to if the ordinance should be removed.
The police chief suggested that the 1979 city law limiting police
intelligence gathering could hamper local law enforcement's ability to
investigate terrorism. The concern was whether the law could lead to
sensitive information being released to the public, because a civilian
auditor must be given access to all files that police have, even if the
intelligence was gathered by a third party.