By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Misplaced priorities at the Boston Police Dept.

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn

Last October the Massachusetts chapter of the ACLU revealed that the Boston Police Department had been spying on left-wing activists such as the late Howard Zinn.

The police were working with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), a so-called fusion center through which the authorities could coordinate with the FBI and other agencies to find out who might be plotting a terrorist attack. Zinn, a peace activist, an elderly professor and World War II hero, was clearly someone to keep a close eye on.

Of course, we now know that at the same time the police were wasting their resources on Zinn, they were ignorant of what the FBI knew about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Among those putting two and two together in the last few weeks were Michael Isikoff of NBC News;  Boston journalist Chris Faraone, who produced this for DigBoston; and Jamaica Plain Gazette editor John Ruch, who wrote an analysis.

Although it would be a stretch well beyond the facts to suggest that if the police hadn’t been watching left-wing and Occupy protesters they might have caught Tsarnaev, the BPD was certainly looking in all the wrong places. The police did a good and courageous job of reacting to the Boston Marathon bombings. The issue is how they spent their time and resources in trying to prevent a terrorist attack.

Spying on the antiwar left makes no more sense today than it did in the 1960s and ’70s. Police Commissioner Ed Davis needs to take a break from giving commencement speeches in order to answer a few questions.

And while I’m on the subject of questionable law-enforcement practices, I sure hope we find out what actually happened in Florida last week. Don’t you?

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  1. Good grief.

  2. Following the read of most Blogs I amble over to the ‘rEADdEr Comments’. Often they may be more informative than the original Blog piece; certainly opinionated and ‘pithy’. BUT c’mon guys… Professor Kennedy AND @Art/Citizen Kane? The comment here is “Good grief”? Let’s back it up ‘Media Nation’ and re-gurgitate one through four premisae. 1) Wasting resources on Zinn; yes/no. Vigilance. Wide net. Pay attention. ‘Paranoia is Good’ — Andy Gove. Old pursuit/scrutiny; of course somewhat a waste of time/resources. Strong YES here. 2) Stretch of resources toward the left and/or right. No documentation other than HUGE FAILURE (of/by BRIC) attributable here. YES again. 3) Antiwar spying makes no sense. Duh…?
    4) NOW, this is an observational criticism. I think it was a cheap shot to knock Commissioner Davis for his Commencement speechifying in lieu of stopping for the Press. BTW who actually ‘is’ (is/is) the press today? AND, on point 4-b) to wit: “And while I’m on the subject of questionable law-enforcement practices, I sure hope we find out what actually happened in Florida last week. Don’t you?” YES… Dan, if it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck… us ‘citizen kanes’ should waddle up to it and stick a mike undAH it’s frigg’n nose and SPOTLIGHT today’s chaotic bureaucratic in-EFECTIVENESS. Oops, their I go digressing. Oh, hell… Great Post/Comments… gets us thinking. — kr

  3. Maybe monitoring people like Zinn makes them feel safe in that same way worrying about Russia does.

    Yes, I would LOVE to know what happened in Florida. It smells bad.

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