Civil liberties group demands Chicago PD release records on surveillance operation

Civil liberties group demands Chicago PD release records on surveillance operation

PCJF continues effors to uncover national mass surveillance grid

Today, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) appealed the City of Chicago's efforts to withhold records and information related to the Chicago Police Department’s operation of a mass surveillance license plate recognition and tracking system (also known as “tag readers”). This technology scans and records data on the movements of law abiding persons with no suspicion whatsoever to believe that any particular individual is engaged in a crime.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has been demanding the records on Chicago's surveillance operation since earlier this year as part of its major national campaign to expose and stop a covert national mass surveillance grid being implemented across the United States.

For more information visit

Based on two years of investigation, including FOIA requests to police departments throughout the country, the PCJF has developed a unique and comprehensive analysis of a new national surveillance system that makes “what was once an Orwellian dark fantasy a current day reality in the United States,” according to Carl Messineo, the legal director of the Washington D.C.-based constitutional rights legal and educational organization.

In response to the PCJF's demands that information on the tag reader surveillance program be made public, the City of Chicago has been playing a game of misdirection.  The Chicago Police Department through its FOIA officer, falsely represented that it possessed no records, and said that the “proper agency” and the record-holder was the OEMC. Yet OEMC FOIA Officer Tate, by telephone, said that that agency is “working with the Chicago PD and pushing the PD to give us something.”

The records that the public is entitled to review are effectively maintained in secret, kept by a closed government which maintains an apparently unregulated mass surveillance system which it refuses to subject to public oversight, and in so doing acts in clear violation of the public records law under which the PCJF’s requests have been made.

View the history of correspondence from this request here.

Background on the Mass Surveillance Program

Most people are not aware that silently, but constantly, the government is now watching, recording your everyday travels and storing years of your activities in massive data warehouses that can be quickly “mined” to find out when and where you have been, whom you’ve visited, meetings you’ve attended, and activities you’ve taken part in. This is all done by using an elaborate network of Automatic License Plate Recognition cameras, also known as tag readers.

It’s a system of mass surveillance and data warehousing on law-abiding persons and citizens. You’re being tracked routinely, without probable cause, without a warrant and without even a suspicion that you have committed a crime.

The public has a right to know about this program and to stop it. The PCJF has established a national campaign, One Nation Under Surveillance, with a proactive website providing the tools and information to take action now.


The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit constitutional rights legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices and government transparency in operations. PCJF's use of FOIA litigation has resulted in the largest and most comprehensive release of D.C. police documents in the history of D.C.'s FOIA law. Additionally, the PCJF's litigation in the Pershing Park mass arrest class action uncovered and exposed that the DC Metropolitan Police Department had engaged in widespread evidence tampering and destruction. The PCJF filed the class action suit challenging the NYPD's October 1 mass arrest of more than 700 protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. It has brought class action cases in which more than 1,000 persons were falsely arrested during protests in Washington, D.C., resulting in settlements totaling $22 million and major changes in police practices. The PCJF previously brought the successful litigation in New York challenging the 2004 ban on protests in the Great Lawn of Central Park. It is counsel with the National Lawyers Guild in Oakland, CA challenging police mass arrest tactics. It won a unanimous ruling at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding the MPD’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program unconstitutional. The PCJF previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrated lawful and peaceful groups. For more information go to: