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By RICK MERCIER
IT'S QUIZ time.
The American Friends Service Com-
mittee (you know, the Quakers) and Amnesty International are best described as:
a) fine exemplars of civic virtue
b) annoying, self-righteous liberals
c) criminal extremists
If you answered c), an exciting and rewarding career in law enforcement awaits you in Denver, Colo.
It seems Denver police believe that our security is threatened by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organizations named in today's pop quiz. And to better protect and serve us, they've been snooping on members of these groups and creating files on them that are classified "criminal extremist."
Since 1999, Denver cops have produced spy files on 3,200 individuals and 208 organizations. On one occasion, they raided the offices of the Denver Justice and Peace Committee and made off with lists that contained the names of 984 people.
"It's not the department's intent to dampen either free speech or lawful political activity," a Denver police spokesperson said. "This is raw data. It is not data that implies criminal activity."
But let's be honest: What are people really supposed to think when the local police department files this "data" in a category called "criminal extremist"? (By the way, in case you're keeping score, the official Nobel Peace Prize tally in the Mile High City is this: criminal extremists, 2; Denver police, 0.)
It's worth emphasizing that Denver cops began their imitation of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI well before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It's also worth pointing out that they weren't alone.
Just before the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania state police, in cahoots with the City of Brotherly Love's finest, infiltrated a group of activists making giant papier-mache puppets for street protests. Dozens of the young puppet-makers were arrested on dubious charges that failed to hold up in court.
In a fit of Cold War nostalgia, Philly cops alleged that "communists" were helping fund the mad puppeteers--an assertion that was based on "intelligence" they had received from an obscure group called the Maldon Institute, which is funded by Pittsburgh-based billionaire and reactionary conspiracy-monger extraordinaire Richard Mellon Scaife. (In the interests of fairness, perhaps Philly police should consider turning to the Communist Party USA for the lowdown on dangerous subversives inside the Young Republicans.)