Cops should know better
NATO 3 trial may not be exposing the workings of terror masterminds. But it is exposing some questionable behavior by Chicago Police.
Got an email Friday from the Heartland Cafe alerting me to a Saturday morning program featuring Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and immediately became concerned about whether the sheriff is aware of the kind of people with whom he is associating.
For all these years, I just thought the Heartland Cafe was a place to find old hippies, but thanks to the NATO 3 trial, we now know that the Chicago police also consider it a hotbed of anarchists.
It turns out the Heartland is one of untold locations Chicago Police deployed members of a 17-person undercover unit over a several month period in the spring of 2012 while trolling for anarchists planning to cause trouble at the NATO summit.
Sure enough, a closer inspection of the email revealed Dart would be appearing on the program with Thom Clark, longtime director of the Community Media Workshop, but more tellingly for our purposes, a close associate of the late Studs Terkel, who found his way onto Joseph McCarthy’s Commie blacklist.
Hold on, another clue near the bottom of the press release, a photo of that 1960s radical Bill Ayers from his own recent appearance on the same Heartland program.
I hope Chicago Police were on hand for the sheriff ’s appearance to take down license plate numbers. He is, after all, a known liberal.
Taking down license plates was one of the tactics employed by this special undercover unit in its search for anarchists.
In particular, they took down license plates at a March 16, 2012, punk rock concert because “such rock bands were known to attract anarchists in the past.”
Mostly, though, the undercover officers would just go to different spots, hang out and listen, then file reports.
“We were listening for criminal activity,” stressed Nadia Chikko, the undercover officer who was the star witness for the prosecution in the first week of the trial of three out-of-state men who are accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism in connection with the NATO summit.
In her report on the concert, Chikko made note of meeting someone named Ian with a tattoo bearing the name of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who told her that “police were oppressive and needed to be stopped.”
Questioned by defense attorneys about why she had included that information in her report, Chikko said: “It could be something to look into.”
The next day, Chikko went to another undercover assignment at Permanent Records, 1914 W. Division, where another suspicious band was going to be playing, then on to another punk rock concert that night at 2966 S. Archer, where more license plate numbers were collected.
Two weeks later, Chikko’s assignment took her to Occupy Chicago headquarters, where a woman was giving a speech about tactics used by police against demonstrators during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. There was no mention of whether the speaker talked about police spying.
One of Chikko’s fellow undercover officers made a big find that day: a Ford conversion van parked outside with a flyer on which he could make out the word “anarchy.”
I suppose that was something to follow up on as well.
I’m sure you’ve picked up on my less than approving tone by this point. It’s true. I’m not a big fan of police spying, especially not these fishing expeditions reminiscent of the Red Squad, the CPD’s dirty tricks unit from days of yore. And to be clear, my quarrel is not with the undercover officers such as Chikko, a gung-ho neophyte carrying out an assignment, but with the higher-ups who should know better.
I’m dying to hear more details about the extent of the intelligence unit’s activities in connection with NATO and the planned G-8 summit that was moved to Camp David. So far we’ve only heard about the undercover missions of the two officers who ensnared the defendants in this case.
But in all honesty, I think defense attorneys for the NATO 3 are kidding themselves if they think First Amendment concerns are going to sway a jury in a terrorism trial in a post-9/11 environment, even after the uproar over the NSA eavesdropping excesses.
Personally, I’m way more creeped out about this type of spying on political dissidents than the NSA collecting records of my phone calls, but I’m probably in the minority.
One of my favorite passages from the undercover recordings contains the suggestion of Chikko’s partner, Mehmet Uygen, to the drug addled suspects that they “make a list” before they “hit the bowl in the morning” to better focus their illegal activities.
Chikko swears she thought “hitting the bowl” meant going to the bathroom. At the Heartland Cafe, they could have set her straight.