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By Raquel Ronzone, ACLU of Massachusetts communications content specialist

Boston Police say (B), according to records the ACLU of Massachusetts and National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts Chapter obtained and released yesterday.

Thanks to "cooperation and information-sharing" with other local departments and through partnership with the federally funded Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), Boston Police have monitored protests, tracked activists and labeled groups and individuals as "extremists," "homeland security" threats and civil disturbances.

Zinn, along with groups such as Veterans for Peace, United for Justice with Peace and CodePink, have records in the Boston Regional Intelligence Center--records that should have been purged after 90 days, in accordance with BRIC's policies, were it not for an "error in computer software."

But why did the files about peaceful, lawful protestors exist in the first place?

As a so-called "fusion center," BRIC was created to fight terrorism and crime--not to keep track of political assemblies or the people participating in them. Moreover, this information-gathering violated both BRIC's own policies, which prohibited information-gathering "solely on the basis of religious, political or social view or activities" or participation in "noncriminal organization(s) or lawful events," and federal guidelines, which prohibited information-gathering unless "there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal conduct or activity."

Unfortunately, BRIC is not alone in either its track record or its disregard for the policies that govern it--and the main reason for its existence in the first place.

Perhaps BRIC's greatest value is in illustrating the continuing 21st-century value of 18th-century documents like the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Massachusetts Declaration of Rights--and challenging us to work towards legislation to enforce and protect the rights and liberties enshrined in those documents.

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