This is James Prigoff. He is 86 years old.
Mr. Prigoff was president of a division of all-American jeans maker Levi Strauss and a VP at tasty bread maker Sara Lee. In his retirement, he apparently likes taking photos of public art, which of course, because WE HAVE FREEDOM HERE DAMMIT, he can pursue happily unmolested by law enforcement.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force takes, let’s say, a different perspective on Mr. Prigoff’s innocent retirement hobby. To JTTF, this skulking-around-taking-photographs-of-things behavior is SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY. Consequently, after he had taken photos of the Rainbow Swash in Dorchester and had gotten home to Sacramento…
…Mr. Prigoff found a note pinned to his door; an agent wanted to talk with him about his SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY, and had already questioned his neighbors about the SUSPICIOUS PERSON on their street.
Mr. Prigoff, with the ACLU’s help, is now suing the Department of Justice and other entities for placing his name in their Suspicious Activity Reporting database. The lawsuit points out that “At no point while he was attempting to photograph the Rainbow Swash did Mr. Prigoff engage in conduct that gave rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity”, but that the guidelines issued by the entities controlling the database positively encourage the inclusion of material not based on reasonable suspicion.
This lawsuit, if successful, has the potential to significantly remedy the massive constitutional abuses and waste of the fusion centers that we have previously reported on. The Suspicious Activity Reports database undergirds the network of fusion centers that has spread like a cancer across this country since 9/11. The lawsuit, brought by the ACLU in support of Mr. Prigoff and four other California defendants, points out that:
The number of queries of national SAR databases such as eGuardian has risen from about 2,800 queries as of July 2010 to more than 71,000 queries as of February 2013.
The number of actual terrorist attacks thwarted as a result of this database? Still zero. 71,000 violations of people’s privacy, and absolutely nothing gained. As Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing comments, SARs have “flooded fusion centers, law enforcement, and other security entities with white noise.”
So next time someone argues that opposing fusion centers, as we do, is somehow anti-law-enforcement, remember this: We’re the people who DON’T want the system flooded with white noise. We’re on the side of better, more judicious, more constitutional law enforcement. And God bless Mr. Prigoff, his co-defendants, and the ACLU, for taking a stand.
That is all.