A secret memo indicates that SF cops may be working as FBI spies — with no local oversight
As the Guardian previously reported, the 2008 decimation of San Francisco's sanctuary city legislation and the 2010 activation of the federal government's controversial Secure Communities program, which both happened during former Mayor Gavin Newsom's tenure, means that the city of St. Francis now ranks among the top 38 counties nationwide that are deporting "noncriminal aliens."
Dubal also noted that the FBI came to the SFPD in 1996 asking for help with the task force, but also sought a waiver from the Police Commission so officers could participate without having to follow local rules. "And within two weeks, then Mayor Willie Brown said, not in our town," Dubal said. "So in 1997, the SFPD said we are not going to join unless we can follow our own rules. And in 2001, when the SFPD joined, it was under an MOU that required them to comply with SFPD rules and was signed in 2002 by then-SFPD Chief [Earl] Saunders."
Dubal said that after local law enforcement agencies sign an MOU with the FBI, they designate and assign officers to work from FBI headquarters. "In the past, two SFPD officers, paid with San Francisco tax dollars, physically worked in the FBI's office in a secure room where you can only go if you have security clearance. But they still can't spy without reasonable suspicion, and they also need audits."
Crew and Dubal said that in a recent meeting, SFPD officials assured them that local police were following General Order 8.10, but that they are open to creating an MOU addendum to clarify this.
Crew and Dubal remain unsure if the FBI would be agreeable to signing off on that. They note that the FBI has previously stated that its JTTF has sensitive investigations going on so it can't give the public all the information. "Fine, but the issue is, Are these investigations based on suspicion, or are they based on religious background, associations, ethnicity, and travel patterns?" Dubal said.
They also doubt that the MOU would even have surfaced if not for comments that then SFPD Chief Gascón made, first in October 2009, then in March 2010, that triggered an uproar in the local Muslim, Arab, and Pakistani and Afghani communities.
At the time, Gascón, who has a law degree and graduated from the FBI Academy, had just landed in San Francisco fresh from a stint as police chief for Meza, Ariz., where he drew praise for speaking out against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants Given this seemingly progressive stance, Gascón shocked civil libertarians in San Francisco when he said he wanted to unearth SFPD's intelligence unit, which was disbanded amid scandal in the early 1990s.
"We have to realize that in the post-9/11 world, San Francisco is an iconic city, like New York, Washington. and Los Angeles," Gascón said. "If somebody wanted to make a big statement about something they disliked about America, doing it here would definitely get attention. We need to know what is going on under the surface of the city."
But Gascón did not say how a revived police spy unit, which had been shut down in large part due to Crew's work, would operate. And six months later, he upset Bay Area Muslims during a March 2010 breakfast by reportedly saying that the Hall of Justice building was not just susceptible to earthquakes, but also to an attack by members of the city's Middle Eastern community who could park a van in front of it and blow it up.
Gascón subsequently claimed that he "never referred to Middle Easterners or Arab Americans," but that he had instead singled out the Afghanistan and Yemen communities because they pose "potential terrorism risks"
"In light of Gascón's comments and his desire to resurrect the intelligence unit, people were asking, 'Is it possible that the SFPD is also doing the same thing?'" Dubal asked, noting that she started getting complaints in 2009 and throughout 2010 about the FBI.