National Lawyers Guild board member will lead 18-month investigation of regional counterintelligence strategies.
National Lawyers Guild board member Thomas Cincotta will lead Political Research Associates’ (PRA) eighteen-month nationwide investigation of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) collaborations with local, state, national, and private entities. As project director, Cincotta will mobilize a team of researchers in targeted locations around the U.S.
“Domestic intelligence gathering can have a profoundly chilling effect on efforts for social change,” said the Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, PRA’s president and executive director. “We are eager to put Thom to work so activists and policymakers have the knowledge we need to ensure that all government agencies respect our country’s values and support for liberty.”
In the war against terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security has engaged law enforcement at all levels to gather intelligence and investigate threats to national security, often organized in entities called “fusion centers.” PRA’s project seeks to understand the relationship between these agencies, and how fusion centers implement counterterrorism policies–often obscured from public scrutiny. Researchers will evaluate the extent to which newly expanded initiatives institutionalize the continued monitoring of legal activities, and profile religious, racial/ethnic groups, and people of specific national origin, in order to identify policies that need to be rolled back to protect civil liberties.
Until recently, Cincotta led the Denver chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) while practicing as a criminal defense lawyer. He led NLG’s efforts to support peace groups and others during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and connected progressive lawyers with other community efforts around sentencing reform, immigrant rights, and police misconduct. He also represented migrant farm workers and served on the board of El Centro Humanitario, Denver’s first day laborer center. He currently serves on the Guild’s national board and international committee. Before becoming a lawyer, Cincotta worked as a labor representative for UNITE HERE Local 217 in Providence, Rhode Island.
PRA’s civil liberties project, supported by major grants from Atlantic Philanthropies and Carnegie Corporation of New York, will map the infrastructure of the regional domestic intelligence apparatus, including relationships between agencies, resources devoted to domestic spying, and the existence–or absence–of oversight mechanisms. The map will be a useful tool for advocates and organizers whose communities are subject to increased government surveillance.