Posted April 24, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in News
 
 

Evergreen Police Accused of Being Linked to Spying, Towery

BY RAY STILL

You can download the all emails sent to the CPJ here: Download Emails

A phone in Sem II E on the first floor. The sticker brings attention to the Patriot Act.

A phone in Sem II E on the first floor. The sticker brings attention to the Patriot Act.

On Feb. 25, civil rights lawyer Larry Hildes said on Democracy Now! that The Evergreen State College Police Services has “spied on, infiltrated, or otherwise monitored the activities of Port Militarization Resistance and/or related or associated activists.”

Hildes said that emails, found public through public information requests, show that the Evergreen State College gave reports on the Students for a Democratic Society student group on campus to other police agencies in the state. They include the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, the Olympia Police Department, the US Capitol Police Department, and John Towery.

John Towery was revealed to be a military spy in 2009—his purpose was to infiltrate activist groups in the Pacific Northwest, including Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and share information with other police, army, and intelligence agencies in the area.

Brendan Maslauskas Dunn and Alex Bryan, both Greener alums and SDS members, worked with Hildes to discover “almost certainly hundreds and possibly thousands” of emails that show that Evergreen Police Services was sharing information about student activists and events on campus with outside police agencies.

They also discovered emails that show Ed Sorger, Evergreen’s police chief, was receiving information from Washington Joint Analytics Center—the information hub that Towery gave his information to. With the help of Peter Bohmer, an Evergreen faculty member, Dunn made these accusations over the TESC Crier listserv.

The CPJ and the Geoduck Student Union, which is conducting a separate investigation into these allegations, were sent a sample of the emails found by Hildes, Dunn, and Bryan.

The Emails and “Students of Concern”

Most of the information detailed in the emails came from the TESC Talk or Crier listserv. TESC Talk and Crier used to be public until 2006, when TESC made the service available only to the Evergreen community.

Three of these emails are short discussions about events that would occur off campus, in the jurisdiction of Olympia police and Thurston County Sheriffs. Sorger forwarded these emails to the Olympia police and the sheriff’s office. The events were a “Rally to Prevent Militarization of Public Port” on July 31, 2008, a “Proposition 8 Protest” on Nov.15, 2008, and a “Demand for Justice for Jose Ramirez-Jimenez” on Nov. 25, 2008.

One email conversation detailed an emergency SDS meeting on Nov. 1, 2007. The SDS meeting was on the Evergreen campus, and the subject of the meeting was to “discuss responses that the community can have to the further militarization of our port.” Sorger also forwarded this email to the OPD and the sheriff’s office.

Another email was about the Northwest Democratic National Convention/Republican National Convention Resistance Conference at Evergreen on Feb.9, 2008. The email originated from a US Capitol Police officer, who asked for information about the event from the OPD. Lt. Jim Pryde referred the officer to Sorger, “since this event is in his jurisdiction,” Pryde wrote in reply to the officer. It is not known how the information was given to the US Capitol Police.

We all have a right to lead private lives, engage in political discourse, and petition the government without being subject to additional scrutiny, surveillance, or harassment.”

– Alex Bryan

Another email thread was about the arrest of a Greener and SDS member for alleged tagging on campus. An Olympia city employee forwarded the email to Sorger.

The last email Bryan sent was a conversation between Sorger and Gary Michel, former police chief of the OPD, on June 30, 2008. They discussed the port protests. Sorger wrote that even though the port isn’t in his jurisdiction, he advised that there could be more port protests if there were additional military shipments into the port during the school year. “I would like to be involved in some of the planning this year when dealing with possible protestors,” he wrote, “especially from Evergreen.”

In addition to these emails, several other emails revealed Sorger received emails and weekly bulletins from the Washington Joint Analytics Center. The weekly bulletin has been mostly redacted, but information on an SDS Northwest Convention was not—the convention included protests, workshops, and an anti-police brutality march in Tacoma.

Bryan and Dunn also requested a “Students of Concern” list from the college—a list of students, non-students, and events at Evergreen that are of concern to police services. Bryan said that the list contains many names of students involved in non-violent political protests. The vast majority of the information on the list is currently redacted under FERPA law, which protects student educational records from the public.

The Allegation and Evergreen’s Denial

“For years, Evergreen’s police Chief Ed Sorger has been forwarding emails about on-campus and student-initiated activities to police departments across the state,” Bryan wrote in the email to the “Cooper Point Journal” that contained the public information request findings. “We all have a right to lead private lives, engage in political discourse, and petition the government without being subject to additional scrutiny, surveillance, or harassment.”

Bryan said even if TESC Talk and Crier could be considered public forums of communication, the fact that information about students and student groups being sent off campus violated Evergreen’s “Appropriate Use of Technology Resources” policy, which states that users must “demonstrate a respect for other user’s intellectual property, rights to privacy, or rights to freedom from intimidation, discrimination, and harassment.” The student information contained in the emails— including student names, involvement with student groups, political affiliations, and even one student’s address—violates FERPA law, which is meant to protect student educational records.

Bryan also said that the Evergreen police have watched activists in other ways on campus. During an event hosted by the student group Evergreen Infoshoppe in 2009, Evergreen police officer Dwight Monohon was seen taking pictures at the event. When Drew Hendricks, a local cop-watcher at the event, said he confronted Monohon taking pictures. Monohon then took a photo of Hendricks and left the event. Hendricks filmed Monohon take a photo and exit the building. “There was no reason to come equipped with a camera, still less reason to use it,” Hendricks wrote in an email to the CPJ explaining what happened at the event. When he inquired about the photo later, Hendricks was told that the single photo taken during the event was deleted. A video clip of this interaction is available here.

With all the evidence together, Bryan claims that this surveillance violates student’s 1st and 4th Amendment rights. “Do you know or have reason to believe this student is going to be committing a crime?” he wrote, citing probable cause. “Then you shouldn’t be investigating them or forwarding emails you receive from them. Period.”

Hildes went into more detail about how students’ may be violated. “Dunn had three incidents where he was stopped, questioned, and followed when he wasn’t doing anything illegal,” Hildes said. He also said that several more of his clients had similar experiences with campus police—and when students would complain, Police Services would issue a grievance to the student.

“This creates a chill intended to intimidate people out of their first amendment rights,” Hildes said. “That crosses the line. Evergreen exists as a place for the free flow of ideas, and this is totally antithetical to what Evergreen stands for.”

Wendy Endress, vice president of student affairs, wrote an email in February to all staff and faculty and TESC Talk in response to these growing allegations. “Evergreen has a long history of student activism, which we regard as a vital part of an education that prepares students to engage as citizens,” she wrote. “We have not and would not ‘secretly survey politically active students.’ It is not part of our DNA.”

Both Endress and Sorger declined to comment on any questions asked outside of the Police Services Community Review Board meetings. “We have a review board that should be asking these questions, if a complaint is submitted,” Endress said. “I don’t want to mess with that process. I feel like if I respond to any of these questions in detail, with my opinion, I feel like it would derail the process that the review board is charged with.” Endress and Sorger both encouraged a complaint to be made to the review board, and for there to be open dialogue and for the Evergreen community to ask questions.

The Evergreen Police Services Community Review Board and the GSU

The review board met on April 16 to discuss some of the allegations made by Bryan, Dunn, and Peter Bohmer, an Evergreen faculty member.

The board did not meet the number of voting members it needed to start making decisions (five out of the eight total seats) about how to proceed into the investigation. Instead, the faculty members of the board and the students who attended the meeting had a discussion about the allegations being made toward Evergreen’s police services and college administration. Kathryn Jones, the chair of the review board member and associate director of academic services, said that one of the reasons the board didn’t have enough members to vote that day was because there are three spaces for students to join the board that have not been filled.

Khadija Hassan, a former Geoduck Student Union (GSU) representative who attended the review board meeting, said that the issue “opens up a larger conversation about the student-to-police relationship.”

“I think that the police investigation, or the John Towery case in general, is bringing a lot of questions about the police,” Hassan said, “and whether or not there is surveillance.”

Hassan also said the GSU created a police investigation committee to continue to investigate the claims of police surveillance. The GSU also accepted a proposal created by Bohmer to the college administration. Bohmer’s proposal included a full and transparent investigation by the campus community into these claims of spying, and that any police officers “who have given this information on non-violent anti-war protesters and groups to police agencies should be disciplined.”

The charge of the review board and its processes can be found online here. To file a complaint or submit a review, students, faculty, and members of the community can email Jones at PSCRB@evergreen.edu.