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California AG slams state security office for tracking antiwar protestors

[JURIST] A spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer [official website] Friday criticized the California State Office of Homeland Security [official website] for tracking antiwar protests over the past few months, calling it a violation of civil liberties. Reports obtained by the Los Angeles Times document protests including a demonstration where US Rep. George Miller (D-CA) [official website] spoke against the war in Iraq, a gathering organized by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom [advocacy website] to support an antiwar protestor charged with federal trespassing, and an animal rights rally. Speaking on behalf of the attorney general, Tom Dresslar said the monitoring violated the protestors' constitutional right of free speech and does not serve a necessary anti-terrorism intelligence function.

Chris Bertelli, a spokesman for the state office, said the reporting began in March, but officials stopped the practice as soon as they learned it was occurring. Bertelli said the reports were only given to the California Highway Patrol [official website] and the attorney general's office, and nothing else was done with the information. The communications director for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] said the governor found the information-collecting "inappropriate and unacceptable" and had no knowledge that such practices were taking place. The Los Angeles Times has more.

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