Activist Claims State Police Engaged In ‘Political Spying’ Online

Posted in the Hartford Courant by Jon Lender. Found by way of GP.org.

A political activist and free-lance journalist who is suing the police over his arrest in Hartford at Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s 2007 inauguration parade says he has found evidence that state police used phony e-mail identities to gather information on political activities.

The state police engaged in “political spying” using “cloaked Connecticut State Police addresses” to “subscribe to e-mail bulletin boards and lists … that contain political information relating to the Green Party, the Democratic Party” and political activists, plaintiff Kenneth Krayeske of Hartford says in federal court papers.

The office of state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has filed a reply saying that Krayeske “relies not upon reasonable inferences drawn from the facts … but, rather, on innuendo and speculation.”

John Danaher, the state’s commissioner of public safety, said he cannot comment on the pending lawsuit. Speaking generally, he said that while state police “frequently use assumed identities” for criminal investigations, politics is off-limits.

“It would be limited to the investigation of criminal activity only,” Danaher, whose department includes the state police, said in a Dec. 7 interview. He said that under state police rules, it is “prohibited to investigate political activity, overtly or covertly.”

Krayeske’s claims are in a thick stack of papers he filed Nov. 25 in hopes of persuading a federal judge to reconsider a Nov. 6 decision granting motions to dismiss Krayeske’s case against the state police — leaving intact only one claim to go to trial against the Hartford city police officer who arrested him.

Krayeske was arrested Jan. 3, 2007, as he took pictures of Rell during the parade. He was charged with breach of peace and interfering with police, held 12 hours on $75,000 bail, then released after it was too late to lead a protest outside Rell’s inaugural ball. The charges were dropped later.

Krayeske, who acted as campaign director for Green Party gubernatorial candidate Cliff Thornton in 2006, says he was targeted because he criticized Rell publicly — partly by means including his website, the40yearplan.com. He was identified by state police as one of several “persons of interest” who might pose a threat, and his picture was in a two-page state police security flier given to Hartford police on parade duty.

Now, in support of his pending motion for reconsideration of the federal judge’s Nov. 6 ruling, Krayeske has submitted copies of e-mails that he obtained from state police files in the course of the 2-year-old lawsuit. The printouts contain two electronic addresses: theseriousbrother@ yahoo.com and eforpeace@hotmail.com.

Courant e-mails sent recently to both of those addresses drew automated replies of “undeliverable.”

“Theseriousbrother” address was on an e-mail that the state police provided to Krayeske in response to a request for public records. The e-mail, kept in police files, contained a copy of a Green Party campaign release dated Oct. 16, 2006 — and Krayeske claims that “theseriousbrother” account was used by state police to subscribe to the yahoogroups.com account to which the Green Party sent updates.

The state police blacked out “theseriousbrother” e-mail account name when they gave it to him, on the grounds that it was an investigative technique they didn’t have to disclose, Krayeske said.

His lawyer at the time, Kevin M. Smith, questioned state police Lt. Mark Cassista about the e-mail in a sworn deposition last Feb. 13: “Do you have any idea who theseriousbrother, a Yahoo e-mail account, was?”

Cassista, who had participated in the state police inauguration parade security operation as then-commander of the department’s central criminal intelligence unit, said he didn’t know who “theseriousbrother” was but went on to say that “we have e-mails we use in the intelligence [operation] as to try to cloak our identities as being police officers” to “gather information.”

“About political parties?” Smith asked.

“No, sir,” Cassista answered.

But Krayeske says the state police violated their own prohibition by using the unexplained e-mail address to transmit internally a Green Party release.

He makes a similar charge with regard to the “eforpeace” e-mail account, which he said was used in 2006 to send a copy of another activist’s upcoming political protest to an internal state police e-mail address referred to as “Trooper, Governors.”

He says in his court papers that the “eforpeace” e-mail was used to sign up for bulletins from the Central Connecticut State University Progressive Student Alliance Committee. When one of those bulletins advertised an October 2006 rally for DeStefano’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign, an “eforpeace” e-mail went to the state police containing a copy, Krayeske’s documents say.

Danaher, the public safety commissioner, wouldn’t comment on whether “theseriousbrother” or “eforpeace” addresses were used by the state police, saying he couldn’t talk directly about the case while the lawsuit is pending.

But, in general, he gave the following examples of legitimate police use of false identities: a police officer posing as a 13-year-old girl in a chat room while investigating a suspected child molester, or an officer “trading e-mails” with someone in a violent organization to see if criminal activity is planned.

Krayeske, now a law student, also said Rell’s chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, forwarded to the state police governor’s security detail an e-mail that a state employee had sent to her, in which Krayeske had advertised a civil rights rally on the steps of the Supreme Court Jan. 30, 2007, while his criminal case was still pending. Krayeske cited it as another indication of improper scrutiny of political activity. Rell’s office declined comment on the allegation.

2 thoughts on “Activist Claims State Police Engaged In ‘Political Spying’ Online

  1. Kimberly Wilder

    I would be immensely interested for folks here to search their e-mail archives for mention of those two addresses. – theseriousbrother and eforpeace.

    I am thankful to Kenneth Krayeske for this information, and his hard work with FOIL-ing documents, etc. There have been a few rounds of crisis with Kenneth Krayeske, and when they were done, it was discovered that he was correct, and he gets into hot water because he is fighting a noble cause, boldy.

    (I did not find those addresses in any of my personal files. But, I am in NY, not CT.)

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