By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
After admitting to conducting an improper “threat assessement” against a pro-life group in Wisconsin, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is refusing to release documentation about the episode.
Pro-Life Wisconsin says that the event occurred in February 2009 when the DHS shared with the Middleton Police Department a “threat assessment” of local pro-life and pro-abortion groups who were participating in a meeting at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics where a vote was taken to approve late-term abortions.
A few months later, the DHS’s Office for Civil Rights concluded that the investigation was an improper use of department resources because it was directed against activities protected by the First Amendment. It determined that law enforcement inappropriately engaged in “the collection, retention and dissemination of U.S. person information regarding protest groups which posed no threat to homeland security and… violated [DHS] Guidelines.”
Wanting to see a copy of the assessment, Pro-Life Wisconsin learned that even though the DHS destroyed its copies of the report, the Middleton Police Department retained a copy. Acting on their behalf, the Alliance Defense Fund asked the Middleton Police Department for a copy of the report pursuant to Wisconsin’s open records laws.
The Department’s Capt. Noel Kakuske refused to release the report, saying that the DHS and the Wisconsin Department of Justice believe it should be withheld because it contained sensitive law enforcement information.
“Disclosure would result in the identification and public disclosure of individuals affiliated with groups on both sides of the issue, which would place them in danger from opposing radical extremists,” he wrote.
“This move by DHS illustrates the Obama administration’s goal of silencing pro-lifers,” said Peggy Hamill, Pro Life Wisconsin state director. “It is disturbing that a local police department has apparently tapped into the security apparatus of the federal government to potentially obstruct free speech. Last year, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano unjustly included pro-lifers in a report on domestic terrorism, and here we see her words in action.”
She adds: “Pro-lifers are not a minority of the population, nor are they second-class citizens. We refuse to let our First Amendment rights be silenced.”
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