FBI Working with Brown U. Police Forces on Terrorism

Campus policeman helps chase down terrorism leads on campus

"I wouldn't say it's common -- it really is dependent on a large number of factors," including whether an institution has biological or nuclear research facilities and whether a campus police department can spare an officer, Cogswell said.

"Naturally you'll see more [campus police-JTTF partnerships] just because of the number of task forces that are up and running," Cogswell added.

The number of JTTFs has more than doubled since the Sept. 11 attacks, though the first JTTF was created in New York City in 1980, and the New Haven JTTF was formed in August 2001, according to a fact sheet provided by Bull. Today, there are more than four times as many members of JTTFs nationwide than there were before Sept. 11.

Cogswell said that just because a college or university does not have a campus officer deputized to a JTTF does not mean the JTTF does not work with the campus police department at that college or university.

For example, Brown, which does not have an officer assigned to the Rhode Island JTTF, does receive fliers and bulletins from JTTFs periodically, according to Mark Nickel, director of the Brown News Service.

Civil liberties concerns

The increase in the activity and number of JTTFs has gained the attention of the ACLU. In two rounds of filings under the Freedom of Information Act, one late last year and one in May, the ACLU's national office, along with about 15 state affiliates, have sought information from the FBI about JTTFs.

"We don't know too much about how the JTTFs operate," said Ben Wizner, the ACLU's lead attorney in the ongoing litigation involving the FOIA requests. "What little we know is disturbing," he added.

Wizner, who cited the "long history in this country of political surveillance by the FBI," said there were "some disturbing news reports" before the national political conventions in 2004. "Some students were questioned aggressively and in an intimidating manner by Joint Terrorism Task Forces about their [planned] protest activities," he said.

Wizner said the ACLU believes that cooperation and information sharing between law enforcement agencies --- including campus police forces -- are "absolutely important," but that the task forces have raised serious concerns about civil liberties.

In one of several incidents involving JTTFs and college students outlined in the FOIA requests, a member of the North Carolina State University Campus Greens is said to have been interrogated by the Raleigh, N.C., police and agents of a JTTF last year. The North Carolina ACLU affiliate is requesting records involving the student, Brad Goodnight. The FOIA request states that "during the interrogation, the agents reportedly asked questions to determine whether members of the NCSU Campus Greens have ties to terrorism or anarchists. Since the interrogation, Mr. Goodnight has noticed a greater police presence at his group's events."

Wizner called this type of investigation of a political group "a misuse of antiterrorism resources."

Though the current litigation has not addressed the the civil liberties issues at stake, Wizner said, "If FBI surveillance and interrogation actually chilled someone's expression of their First Amendment rights, we would consider that a First Amendment violation."

Bull, the spokeswoman for the FBI in Connecticut, would not comment specifically on civil liberties concerns, but told The Herald, "The only thing I can say in general is, it is not the '60s and the '70s in the FBI."

Asked whether he thought the ACLU's concerns were groundless, Cogswell, the FBI spokesman in Washington, said, "I'm not going to get in for a tit for tat."

Cogswell did say that the bureau has the training, oversight and guidelines to ensure that "legal parameters" are followed. "We are not looking at protected speech," he said.