Testimony prepared for the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission in support of the work of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition on 10-10-13

My name is Michael Boldin, I am the executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center which is based here in Downtown Los Angeles.  I am here to speak in support of the goals of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.  I hope that my presence here today underscores the fact that opposition to the LAPD’s Suspicious Activity Reporting Program crosses traditional political boundaries.

Today, it’s hard to miss the fact that we all are living in a suspicion-based culture.  The revelations that the NSA is spying on everyone of us is alarming to the point that nearly 80% of Americans now oppose the practice of spying without a warrant.

While we’re here to demand public hearings on the SAR program from the LAPD, the NSA’s alarming activities are certainly related.  The NSA, through the director of national intelligence, shares the information it collects without warrant, down to state and local law enforcement.  This is happening via something known as the federal Information Sharing Environment (ISE).  The ISE passes along information to locals via Fusion Centers.   At the fusion centers, that information is shared with LAPD.

Going in the other direction, information obtained by the SAR program is sent to the fusion center and then made available to the NSA and other federal agencies.

It’s a very symbiotic relationship that people across the political spectrum are alarmed about.

The powers-that-be use fear to pressure good people like yourselves into accepting these practices without question or examination.  The Bush administration, for example, tried to scare you into thinking that if the Patriot Act wasn’t passed, you could be killed by a terrorist.  The Los Angeles Police Department uses these same scare tactics – claiming, under Special Order 1, that they’re protecting you from harm by creating detailed files on the non-criminal activities of people everywhere.

While we can try to escape the NSA’s spying by turning off computers and phones, the SAR program fills the gap, and keeps us all on the radar, all the time.

But I’m white and middle-class, so the odds of this actually affecting me personally are far lower than those people of minority backgrounds, living in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city.  So, if the plight of the less fortunate in this city doesn’t motivate you to hold public hearings to get to the bottom of this program, I hope this poem from Martin Niemoller does:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me —
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Michael Boldin

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