[Ppnews] Kiko Martinez: Watch Listed for Life
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 19 11:27:45 EST 2007
Features > January 19, 2007
Kiko Martinez: Watch Listed for Life
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Francisco Kiko
Martinez, a Colorado civil rights attorney and
long-time Chicano activist, was flying home from
visiting family in Washington state. At the Salt
Lake City airport, federal officials barred him
from making his connecting flight back to
Colorado. After they questioned and prohibited
him from boarding his flight, he ended up taking a bus home.
Turns out he was on the no fly list, a shadowy
roster of thousands of people the government has
identified as potentially having links to
terrorism. People can end up on the list because
of legal political activity or membership in
legal groups; or just because they have the same
name as someone the government is keeping an eye
on. Those erroneously listed have included an Air
Force sergeant, an attorney, a minister and even children.
Since November 2001, the Transportation Security
Administration has adhered to two lists: a no
fly list that prevents people from boarding any
commercial airliner and a select list that
subjects them to extra screening and questioning.
In 2003 a broader U.S. master terror watch list
combined 12 government lists into a register of
more than 100,000 people. The list, officially
called the FBI-CIA Terrorist Threat Integration
Center, is meant to create a structure to
institutionalize sharing across agency lines of
all terrorist threat intelligence, according to a government fact sheet.
Martinez likely made it onto these lists because
of 1973 charges related to package bombs sent by
Chicano activist groups. He fled to Mexico from
Colorado, saying he feared for his life since
local police officers were out to get him. He
eventually went to trial in 1980 after crossing
back into the United States. The charges were
either dropped or ended in acquittals.
On three other occasions while driving, Martinez,
60, has also been detained by law enforcement for
no obvious reason beyond his activist past. In
July 2000, police held him after he got a
speeding ticket in Pueblo, Colo., and in December
2004, in Morris, Ill., when he and his family
were driving back from a national cross-country meet his son was competing in.
Most recently, he was detained on April 19, 2005.
While driving back from giving a speech at the
University of New Mexico, a state trooper and
Pojoaque tribal officer pulled Martinez over. He
was held while the officers called an FBI agent,
who asked questions, then ordered his release.
This summer he filed a lawsuit in U.S. District
Court in Santa Fe challenging the detention.
And on Dec. 4, Martinez filed a lawsuit in U.S.
District Court in Chicago, charging that Illinois
state police and local FBI agents violated his
Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable
search and seizure during the Morris traffic
stop. Since Martinez cant fly, at a Chicago
press conference about the lawsuit, attorney Jim
Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild placed
his photo on an empty chair with a phone broadcasting his voice to media.
The next day, Martinez spoke with In These Times.
How did you end up on the watch list?
I was placed on the Violent Gang and Terrorist
Organization File (VGTOF). Basically the only
guidelines for being placed on that list are that
a police officer nominates you. Thats what we
think happened to me. The government wont
confirm or deny it. The only way we figured it
out is on the police reports from Colorado and
New Mexico it mentions the VGTOF.
What effect has this had on your life and work?
We supposedly have a constitutional right to
travel, but I cant get on a plane. If I drive,
even the slightest infraction can result in a
detention of one to three hours or more. I have
to be careful who I travel with because I dont
want to subject most people to what I have to go through if Im stopped.
And. of course, theres the racial profiling that
happens on most highways. The time I was stopped
in Colorado [in 2000], I think it was racial
profiling. I was driving an Oldsmobile sedan
fixed up nice, they probably thought a young gangster was driving it.
The world is a fast place these days, so this has
really slowed me down, since I cant fly or drive long distances.
Do you truly feel you are not able to fly?
I wasnt allowed to fly before. I dont want to
subject myself to that humiliation again.
How does the current surveillance and monitoring
of activists or suspected dissidentsthrough
things like the watch listcompare to the situation in the 60s and 70s?
The current technology enables them to access and
use that data much quicker than in the 60s and
70s. Then, the police would have contact cards
theyd keep on people. Now, they just type your
information into a computer and it comes up.
Do you think the government intends this watch
list to have a chilling effect on political speech or activity?
Im sure they figured it would. It chills
peoples will to exercise their First Amendment
rights. A lot of people are afraid they will lose
their job or it will affect their family [if they
get placed on a list like this].
I see this as the next generation of COINTELPRO
[the infamous FBI program run from 1956 to 1971
which tried to destabilize dissident groups
through harassment, surveillance and
infiltration]. Its set up to destroy and neutralize things.
After Watergate and the Nixon era, there was a
movement to prevent the government from spying on
people unless they really had a reason to. But
this so-called war on terror has given them a
pretext to increase spying again. People are
starting to speak out about it, but who knows
when the next terrorist attack will happen? Then
that will mean they can take away even more of our rights.
Along with activist histories like yours, what
current activities or affiliations do you think are landing people on the list?
Environmentalists, immigrant-rights advocates,
attorneys and individuals who speak out on behalf
of those who are targeted, antiwar activists,
media persons who are not embedded with the
government, black nationalists, Puerto Rican
independentistas, indigenous nation advocates and
others who struggle against corporations and the
government dominated by corporations [are all at risk].
You were involved in radical movements tied to
violence 30 years ago. Do you think theres a
valid reason for having you on a list like this?
The guidelines for the VGTOF say you must be part
of an ongoing organization. But these things
happened 25 or 30 years ago. The state has such a
long memory, even if generations of agents have
passed on, they will keep you on the list.
But if they just followed their own guidelines, I
wouldnt be on it. Also it says you can only be
detained if they have reason to believe you have
or are about to commit a crime. They had no reason to believe that with me.
Do you think this list is at all effective in preventing terrorism?
No, the way police usually find out somethings
afoot is through informantsbeing there on the
street. This is just random stops and searches
and seizures. Many people dont know their
constitutional rights and will agree to searches.
As a tactical matter, its hard to tell a
policeman no. If you buck them a little, it gets
them mad. With police so aggressive, with Tasers
and steroid rages [refusing a search could mean
trouble]. Most of the countrys interstates are
considered drug routes, so an officer could
always use the pretext of the war on drugs.
What do you hope to accomplish with the lawsuits?
Something productive will come of it. At least we
are able to engage the government, otherwise they
would never talk to you about it. Were hoping by
bringing more attention to this, more people will
take steps to find out if they are on the list.
What do you think will happen with the cases filed in Chicago and New Mexico?
Well, theyve assigned the Chicago case to Judge
Amy St. Eve, [a Bush II appointee] whos hearing
the Muhammad Salah case [a Chicago area grocer
accused of financing Hamas]. Shes made some
terrible moves in that case. In New Mexico, the
government is saying they dont want their agents
deposed, they dont want discovery; that the case
involves state secrets and national security.
Not all judges are falling into lockstep with the
Department of Justice. Some judges are ruling
against the government, so the Department of
Justice is trying to settle cases so the Bush
gang can continue its imperial presidency and be a secret government.
Are you hoping to get off the list?
I dont think you can ever really get off the
list. Theyll always have another generation of lists.
Kari Lydersen writes for the Washington Post out
of the Midwest bureau and just published a book,
Out of the Sea and Into the Fire: Latin
American-US Immigration in the Global Age.
information about Kari Lydersen
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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