The U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted a “threat assessment” of a pro-life and pro-abortion activists before a planned Wisconsin rally last year, yet later admitted that the groups in no way threatened national security.
Although the DHS has since destroyed its copies of the assessment, a local Wisconsin pro-life leader is criticizing the DHS effort as “an attempt by the Obama administration to silence pro-lifers.”
The “threat assessment” was issued by the DHS in Feb. of 2009 when Pro-Life Wisconsin planned a rally to protest the University of Wisconsin's proposition to build a late-term abortion clinic in Madison.
An internal review of the assessment found, however, that it violated intelligence-gathering guidelines. Since the protest groups on both sides of the abortion debate “posed no threat to homeland security,” collecting and sharing information regarding group participants was a breach of protocol, said a 2009 department memo obtained by the Associated Press.
Although the DHS has since deleted its assessment, the Middleton Police Department still has a copy of the report and has refused to release it, says Pro-Life Wisconsin.
According to a letter sent to Pro-Life Wisconsin by Capt. Noel Kakuske of the Middleton Police Department, the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice similarly refused to give the local police permission to release the assessment. Capt. Kakuske cited the possibility that individuals named in the report on both sides of the issue could be endangered by “opposing radical extremists” as another reason for not releasing the report.
According to the Associated Press, the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic authority board voted 11-3 to approve the plan for an abortion clinic at the Madison Surgery Center in Feb. of 2009. Though board members participating in the meeting went through police checkpoints, both sides of protests groups at the meeting site acted peacefully and did not cause any disturbances.
The state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, Peggy Hamill, has condemned the DHS's actions and said that her group is considering appealing to the district attorney or suing for the release of the documents.
“This move by DHS illustrates the Obama administration’s goal of silencing pro-lifers,” Hamill charged on Feb. 8 in a Pro-Life Wisconsin press release. “It is disturbing that a local police department has apparently tapped into the security apparatus of the federal government to potentially obstruct free speech.”
Hamill also spoke out against what she believes to be a violation of free speech rights.“The majority of Americans identify themselves as pro-life, and the Middleton Police Department has shown they are out of touch with this peaceful majority,” stated Hamill. “Pro-lifers are not a minority of the population, nor are they second-class citizens. We refuse to let our First Amendment rights be silenced.”