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Environmental activists and indigenous leaders claim they were illegally spied upon
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Environmental activists and indigenous leaders claim they were illegally spied upon

Tribal members and environmental advocates filed a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Justice on Tuesday for “illegal domestic spying” through its Oregon TITAN Fusion Center – one of approximately 80 intelligence hubs tasked with surveilling potential domestic terrorists. 

It is shocking and disturbing that I have been made the target by a well-resourced secret force, solely because I participated in peaceful protests against a harmful pipeline of fossil fuels across my ancestral lands. Kaila Farrow-Smith, an Indigenous rights and environmental advocate, said in a Press release

Farrell Smith is a plaintiff in this case and a Klamath Tribe member. She has protested against Jordan CoveA 229-mile-long natural gas pipeline that would have passed through Ancestral lands in Oregon. She has also organized protest art against the Nevada lithium mine.

Rowena and Francis Eatherington were also plaintiffs. Jackson is also a Klamath Tribe member and a water protector. She works at the Klamath Tribes Administrative Office. Eatherington is the president of Oregon Womens Land Trust, which is a conservation non-profit. Westover was an organizer of No LNG Exports Coalition. This coalition is composed of groups that oppose the Jordan Cove Pipeline.

According to the lawsuit, “fusion centers” have little oversight and less is known about them. At least Federal and state employees: 3,000Work in fusion centres, where they monitor individuals who could pose a threat to domestic terrorist attacks. Oregon’s TITAN Fusion Center gathers information from the public, social media and governmental materials. It shares this data with over 170 local law enforcement agencies, dozens federal and state intelligence hubs, as well as an unknown number of private and public partners, according to the lawsuit states.  

After 9/11, at most 80 fusion centers were established to prevent future terrorist attacks. However, a 2012 Senate investigationThey are inefficient and cost taxpayers $330 million annually. They were originally created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. However, funding has largely fallen on the shoulders of the states. According to the lawsuit, Oregon’s TITAN facility runs through Oregon’s Department of Justices Criminal Intelligence Division.

The lawsuit was filed by New York University School of Law Policing ProjectTITAN is accused of illegally spying on environmental activists who are not breaking the law, according to a partnership between police and communities. The Policing Project also participated in a Microsoft case involving compulsory data sharing with law enforcers. Audit of Ring, a company that provides video doorbells for police departments all over the country. 

According to the lawsuit, none of the Plaintiffs have ever engaged in, supported, or participated in criminal activity that would warrant Oregon Department of Justices notice or fall within Oregon Department of Justices delegated power.

Jeff Rosenthal, an attorney representing plaintiffs, stated in a press release, that TITAN had repeatedly abused its unchecked authority over law-abiding Oregonians. According to the lawsuit, TITAN also used surveillance software in order to track Black Lives Matter protestors. The information was used to create a threat report on Oregon’s Director of Civil Rights, as well reports on the Womens March. 

“There is not a single Oregon law or regulation that gives the state Department of Justice the power to run a generalized spy agency, said Barry Friedman, a law professor and the founding director of the Policing Project, in a press release. That TITAN exists without any legislative authority flouts the basic principles of democratic governance.” 

The Department of Justice informed Portlands in a statement. KATUWe are currently reviewing the lawsuit and will respond in court. However, many of the examples in the lawsuit were cited years ago and have been addressed. 

The lawsuit is expected to bring an end to TITAN surveillance activities.

Farhang Heydari (executive director of the Policing Project), stated that privacy and civil rights advocates have been raising alarms about fusion centers for many years. TITAN, however, is one of the worst.

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