Timeline: ACLU-NJ Request for Records Related to Potential Threat Elements


ACLU-NJ hears reports both locally and nationally that antiwar groups and other Americans are being targeted for surveillance by the federal government and local law enforcement.

Early 2004

ACLU-NJ learns that certain federal Homeland Security grants require that applying towns list up to 15 individuals or organizations in their community as "potential threat elements."

April 8, 2004

ACLU-NJ issues request under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to 50 of New Jersey's largest municipalities, requesting information or documents related to the identification of persons, groups or organizations as potential threat elements. The ACLU-NJ request includes that the towns provide copies of "internal memoranda, emails or other correspondence related to the identification of potential threat elements."

April 20, 2004

E. Robbie Miller, a lawyer for then-Attorney General Peter Harvey, issues a memo, titled "ACLU OPRA request," delineating the reasons upon which towns can deny access to the requested documents. NOTE: The ACLU-NJ did not learn about the existence of this memo until two years later, in 2006. Attorney General Peter Harvey in letters to the court and to the ACLU-NJ denied the existence of any directive to the town regarding potential threat elements. (See entries for September 14, 2004 and October 4, 2004.)

April-May 2004

  • Most of the 50 towns say they do not possess any information regarding potential threat elements.
  • Nine towns deny the ACLU-NJ's request. Those towns are Edison, Middletown, Mount Laurel, Linden, Newark, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Trenton, Wayne and West New York.
  • Some of the nine towns that refuse to provide the records cite the Attorney General's directive, which advised the towns to deny the ACLU-NJ request.

October 4, 2004

ACLU-NJ sends OPRA request directly to then-Attorney General Peter Harvey and also asks for the directive that the towns referred to as their basis for denying the ACLU-NJ request. This request is denied.

December 2, 2004

ACLU-NJ sues the Attorney General under OPRA, challenging the Attorney General's refusal to disclose information about individuals and organizations designated as potential threat elements, including the criteria used by the state to make such determinations.

September 14, 2005

The Attorney General's Office issues a letter to New Jersey Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg stating that the Attorney General's Office issued "no written directive" to the towns regarding the ACLU-NJ OPRA request and had "no records responsive to the" ACLU-NJ's OPRA request. However, a memo was indeed issued by the Attorney General on April 20, 2004 -- in direct contradiction to the Attorney General's statement here.

October 20, 2005

The Attorney General issues a letter to the ACLU-NJ cooperating attorney stating that the Attorney General "has no records responsive to the OPRA request" made by the ACLU-NJ. The letter also states that the Attorney General "did not direct or control" responses local law enforcement agencies made to ACLU-NJ OPRA requests for records regarding potential threat elements. However, a memo was indeed issued by the Attorney General on April 20, 2004 -- in direct contradiction to the Attorney General's statement here.

October 26, 2005

Based on assurances then-Attorney General Peter Harvey made in October 2005, the ACLU-NJ agrees to dismiss its lawsuit.

March-April 2006

  • ACLU-NJ renews its request to the nine towns that had denied the public records (Edison, Middletown, Mount Laurel, Linden, Newark, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Trenton and Wayne).
  • In response to the ACLU-NJ request for records, some towns again refused to release the requested documents.
  • One of the towns that relied on the Attorney General's April 20, 2004 memo to justify its denial of the ACLU-NJ request provides a copy of the memo to the ACLU-NJ.

May 4, 2006

  • ACLU-NJ reopens its lawsuit against former Attorney General Peter Harvey under the Open Public Records Act, citing fraud.
  • In addition, the ACLU-NJ files suit against the five towns that again denied access to records pertaining to the identification of or criteria for determining potential threats. Those five towns are Linden, Middletown, Newark, Wayne and West New York.

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