[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 can’t fly, at a Chicago 
press conference about the lawsuit, attorney Jim 
Fennerty of the National Lawyer’s 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. That’s what we 
think happened to me. The government won’t 
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 can’t 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 don’t 
want to subject most people to what I have to go through if I’m stopped.

And. of course, there’s 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 can’t fly or drive long distances.

Do you truly feel you are not able to fly?

I wasn’t allowed to fly before. I don’t 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 
they’d 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?

I’m sure they figured it would. It chills 
people’s 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]. It’s 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 there’s 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 
wouldn’t 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 something’s 
afoot is through informants­being there on the 
street. This is just random stops and searches 
and seizures. Many people don’t know their 
constitutional rights and will agree to searches.

As a tactical matter, it’s 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 country’s 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. We’re 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, they’ve assigned the Chicago case to Judge 
Amy St. Eve, [a Bush II appointee] who’s hearing 
the Muhammad Salah case [a Chicago area grocer 
accused of financing Hamas]. She’s made some 
terrible moves in that case. In New Mexico, the 
government is saying they don’t want their agents 
deposed, they don’t 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 don’t think you can ever really get off the 
list. They’ll 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
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San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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