Editorial: Another BRIC in the wall

The latest revelations about Boston Police spying on Northeastern students are many, but they can be summed up easily: daily, even hourly, violations of the Constitution by a spy center with more tax money than sense.

It’s easy to laugh at the Boston Regional Intelligence Center’s obsession with yoga classes. But it’s not funny that BRIC spent countless hours compiling a glorified Occupy Boston calendar listing while totally overlooking actual terrorists actually about to bomb and kill.

And the picture emerging from this spying is profoundly disturbing, one that shows systematic suppression of civil rights and liberties here and across the city.

BRIC’s repeated reports on Carlos and Mélida Arredondo are forming into an unsettling picture as well. It was already massively ironic that Carlos became a marathon bombing rescue hero after BRIC’s anti-terrorism “analysts” labeled Mélida’s anti-war activism in Jamaica Plain “criminal.” But that was just one of many such reports—including a disgusting one nattering on about a vigil for Carlos’s son, who had committed suicide.

We now know that BRIC habitually, consistently, knowingly spied on totally legal local activities for years. It is a distressing pattern that likely continues today. Who and what are they tracking right now?

We don’t know, because there is no accountability. BRIC is highly secretive. Its files are plainly retained for many years, and we don’t know who sees them. But we do that as a “fusion center,” BRIC shares info with the likes of the FBI, the CIA and the U.S. military.

From examples right here, we know that BRIC draws or invents links between innocent people and groups, expanding its surveillance circle ever outward to spy on more and more legal activity—even on local college workshops and speaking engagements. The chilling effect on local activism could be huge.

Police have a legitimate, limited interest in safety at public events. BRIC, an anti-terror intelligence agency, does not, nor was its spying in any way restricted to such practices. It is out of control and outside the law.

Mayor Walsh should step in to pull the plug on BPD’s BRIC participation. It is too much to hope that NSA-loving President Obama’s Justice Department will prosecute BRIC’s staff for its thousands of civil rights violations, but local targets should strongly consider civil suits.

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