Bill would limit undercover surveillance

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 16, 2011 at 8:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 16 at 8:25 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Police agencies would need to suspect potential criminal activity before gathering information on members of religious or political groups, under a proposed bill in the Washington state Legislature.

Under current state law, that information can be collected and retained without any suspicion. The proposed bill would force police to meet the same standard as federal law enforcement agencies who currently need to show "reasonable suspicion" to gather information.

"It's not a tough standard to meet," said former FBI agent Mike German, who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union and testified in favor of the bill.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department used a civilian Army employee to pose as an anti-war protester to keep tabs on the plans of demonstrators. Sheriff Paul Pastor said he cannot comment on that investigation because demonstrators have sued the county.

He was in Olympia Wednesday to testify against the bill. Pastor said it would harm law enforcement efforts.

"We need to be able to say 'Hmmmm, if that's happening and then a crime takes place we could draw a nexus between those two things,'" said Pastor.

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