Judge Rules Long Haul Activists Can Sue Over Raid

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 03, 2009 - 08:52:00 AM
The Long Haul Info Shop on Shattuck Avenue in South Berkeley.
Riya Bhattacharjee
The Long Haul Info Shop on Shattuck Avenue in South Berkeley.

A federal judge ruled Monday that Berkeley’s Long Haul Infoshop can sue federal agents for an Aug. 27, 2008, raid by University of California police.  

The raid, during which UC police seized computers and other records, was part of an investigation of alleged e-mail threats sent to UC Berkeley animal researchers by animal rights advocates. 

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said that Long Haul can attempt to prove that the search was illegal and that the officers involved had misled the judge who issued the warrant. 

Long Haul can also try to prove that it was targeted because of its radical views, White said. 

The ruling came amid the federal government’s attempts to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by civil rights attorneys representing Long Haul activists. The suit called the raid a violation of privacy and free speech. 

University of California Police Department Detective Bill Kasiske used a search warrant to obtain CDs, computers, hard drives, flash drives and other property from the Long Haul Infoshop at 3124 Shattuck Ave. and the adjoining East Bay Prisoner Support office on the grounds that the equipment was used to commit a felony or could serve as evidence that a felony was committed. 

FBI agents and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in the roughly two-hour search, which included private offices. 

In January 2009, attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the UC Regents, then–UC Police Chief Victoria Harrison, Kasiske, the FBI and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department in federal court for what it claimed was an illegal raid. 

The lawsuit charged that the search was not based on any allegations of wrongdoing by Long Haul, EBPS or their members, and that there had been no arrests.  

It said that although the seized computers were eventually returned, it was likely that “investigators copied the data and continued their illegal search of the information.” 

Both community organizations publish information for social and political activists. 

An all-volunteer collective, Long Haul publishes a newspaper called Slingshot and provides public computer access, community space and a library that lends radical and anarchist books. EBPS publishes a newsletter showcasing prisoners’ writings and distributes literature to prisoners. 

The lawsuit said that the officers removed every computer in the building—including those behind the locked doors of the Slingshot and EBPS offices—even though the federal Privacy Protection Act specifically protects publishers from search and seizure except in the narrowest of circumstances. 

The warrant, issued by Judge Judith Ford of the Alameda County Superior Court on Aug. 26, 2008, allowed police to search the “premises, structures, rooms, receptacles, outbuildings, associated storage areas and safes at Long Haul” and “seize any written, typed or electrically stored documents, papers, notebooks or logs containing names or other identifying information of patrons who used” its computers, as well as “all electronic data-processing and storage devices, computers and computer systems including, but not limited to, central processing units, external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, diskettes, memory cards, PDAs and USB flash drives.” 

The University of California did not take part in the federal government’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit. 

In asking for the case to be dismissed, the federal government said that its officers had found it imperative to track down the threats and seize the records to avert serious harm. 

But White ruled that their contention was diluted by the two-month gap between the time the e-mail messages were sent and the date of the raid.