Monday, January 31, 2011

City of Tacoma Demands Return of PDR 10-2798 "The Towery Dossier"

On 28 January 2011, the City of Tacoma Deputy Legal Advisor and Tacoma Police Dept Attorney demanded the return of the documents released by the City of Tacoma in response to PDR 1-2798. Below is a copy of the demand email and the response by Tim Smith, Chairperson of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee - Tacoma

From: xxxxxxxxx

Subject: RE: PDR 10-2798
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2011 16:09:58 +0000


I will only surrender the documents when presented with an order served directly by a US court having jurisdiction.

I have passed this request to my legal representative and I would direct that all future communications regarding
this be sent to him as well.

His address and contact information follow.

Attorney Devin Theriot-Orr
1000 Second Avenue • Suite 1600 •
Seattle, WA 98104 • Phone (206) 682-1080 or (206) 708-8740

Respectfully yours,

Timothy Smith
Chairperson, Bill of Rights Defense Committee - Tacoma

"Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil and injustice." Thomas Mann 1875-1955

"If... while there is yet time,
we turn to Justice and obey her,
the dangers that now threaten must disappear,
the forces that now menace will turn to agencies of elevation.
Think of the powers now wasted; of the infinite fields of knowledge yet to be explored;
of the possibilities of which the wondrous inventions of this century give us but a hint.
With want destroyed, with greed changed to noble passions, with the fraternity that is born of equality
taking the place of jealousy and fear that now men array against each other, with mental power loosened
by conditions which give to the humblest comfort and leisure; who shall measure the heights to which our civilization may soar? " Henry George 1839-1897


To: xxxxxxxx

Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 11:13:19 -0800
Subject: PDR 10-2798

Mr. Smith-

You recently received a response to your public records request requesting records related to a Mr. John Towery. After the release was made it was determined that further redactions should have been made to the records you received. More specifically, the information you received contained non-conviction data that was not identified as such at the time of the original release. It was subsequently determined to be non-conviction data that should have been redacted. I am asking for your assistance to ensure that you have a properly redacted set of documents. The Clerk’s office will contact you when a newly redacted version of your previous request will be available. I anticipate the new set will be available very soon. I also ask that you return the previously provided documents to the Clerk’s office to prevent any further dissemination.

I thank you for your assistance.


Michael J. Smith

Deputy City Attorney

Police Legal Advisor
3701 S. Pine St.

Tacoma, WA 98409


BORDC-Tacoma Letter to City of Tacoma RE: Towery Files

Law Offices of
Gibbs Houston Pauw
1000 Second Avenue Suite 1600

Seattle, WA 98104

(206) 682-1080
FAX (206) 689-2270

Robert H. Gibbs
Robert Pauw

Neha Chandola
Erin Cipolla
Xia Hua
Devin Theriot-Orr
Lori Walls

January 27, 2011

City of Tacoma

Records Management Supervisor

City Clerk’s Office

747 Market Street, Room 220

Tacoma, WA 98402

RE: Incomplete response to Request No. 10-2798

via First Class Mail

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am representing Timothy Smith in his December 3, 2010 request pursuant to the Washington Public Disclosure Act, RCW 42.17 et seq., Request No. 10-2798. Please direct any and all further communication regarding this matter to my office at the address above.

We are in receipt of your response produced on January 19, 2011 via email. Your response is incomplete in several respects and therefore in violation of your statutory obligations under Washington’s Public Disclosure Act.

In particular, your response fails to include any of the documents generated in responding to the request, such as emails, memoranda, calendar appointments, and any other documents relating in any way to John Jakob AKA John Jacob Towery. Such documents are responsive and are routinely produced by other state agencies in responding to similar requests. These documents are necessary because it is unclear whether the City of Tacoma has exercised diligence in locating responsive documents from various departments within the city. For example, it is unclear from your response whether you contacted the City Manager, City Attorney, Police Chief, Fire Department and any other departments to see if they have responsive records.

In general, your response fails to include any log identifying documents that were withheld from production. Please note that if you are withholding production of a document based on your belief that it is not subject to disclosure, you are obligated to provide a log identifying the general nature of the document and the justification for withholding the document. Just to take one example, your response includes some redacted documents, but you have failed to include a log notating the justification under the Public Disclosure Act for redacting or withholding information.

Your response also fails to include any documents from the “Homeland Security Committee,” which were emailed to a distribution list which included Mr. Towery. These documents should not have been withheld at all, but even assuming that there was some justification for withholding the documents, you are obligated to identify the documents with particularity in your response, state that they are being withheld, and state a justification for withholding the documents.

There are also several distribution lists regarding the 2007 demonstrations at the Port of Tacoma including an electronic file called “email addresses” which contained Mr. Towery’s email address. Any and all emails to this distribution list are responsive to Mr. Smith’s request. Once again, if you contend that the documents are exempt from disclosure, you must identify each documents with specificity and provide a log stating your justification under the statute for withholding these documents from public view.

There is also a document entitled “Concept of Operations for Police Intelligence Operations” which we believe is in the possession of the City of Tacoma and is responsive in that it was partially authored by Mr. Towery.

Mr. Smith’s request also asked for all documents to be produced in their original, “long” form with all “internal and external messages handling and header data.” This would include, for example, electronic copies of .eml files for individual emails, rather than a pdf file containing the text of the email.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the documents omitted from your response. Given that we have identified many documents that are clearly responsive and which were not produced, I recommend that your office reopen this request and conduct a searching investigation to locate any and all additional responsive documents to ensure that the City is in full compliance with its obligations under the Public Disclosure Act.

Finally, I feel it neccessary in light of the documents produced in your first disclosure to remind you of your obligation to redact personal and financial information, including social security numbers and residential addresses. See RCW 42.56.230. Such redactions are the responsibility of the protecting agency.

You have already received an extension in your initial response to this request, we believe that an additional 30 days should be more than sufficient for you to locate and produce the remaining responsive documents. Please produce the documents no later than March 1, 2011, in electronic form accessible by common software in public use by emailing them to me at If the files are too large to email, please send a CD-Rom with the files to the above mailing address.

Thank you for your assistance and attention to this matter. I can be reached at (206)708-8740 if you have any questions. Please note, however, that I have been unexpectedly pulled away from the office due to a family emergency, so I will be out of the office until Tuesday, February 8, 2011.


Devin Theriot-Orr

Cc Mr. Timothy Smith

Rose Spidell, Esq., American Civil Liberties Union


Since 2003, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee – Tacoma (BORDC-Tacoma) has requested and received thousands of pages of documents detailing the wide variety and methods used by the Tacoma Police Department and other regional and national agencies to monitor protected First Amendment activities. We have studied them, shared them, published them and used them to support our efforts to provide oversight of police actions in Tacoma and across the United States. It seems apparent that serious Federal and State violations have been committed by law enforcement, in which citizens’ personal information has been collected, improperly stored and inappropriately distributed to other government agencies and even to the public.

Following an acknowledgement by the U.S. Army at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that an individual known as John Towery was working as a confidential human intelligence source (CHS) for the Pierce County Sheriff’s office and the Tacoma Police Department, BORDC – Tacoma requested (under appropriate provisions of Washington State Open Records Laws) the following information:

Public Disclosure Request # 10-2798
“All records, payment summaries, employment records, email, memo’s and reports related to the use of John Jakob, aka John Jacob Towery, John Towery II as a confidential police informant from 1 Apr 2005 until 03 Dec 2010. See TNT article 3 Dec 2010 “Tacoma PD Spies on Activists.”

On January 19, 2011 the City of Tacoma released 133 pages of information, primarily from only one part of the records we know to exist. Many more pages have yet to be released, currently without explanation for their being withheld. This single released file, however, was more than enough to substantiate our belief of the depth and insidious nature resulting from amateur informants reporting to entities which (although may have the authority to authorize infiltration activity where appropriately warranted and when done correctly) are not following proper procedure regarding information the infiltrator/informant reports.

Many of you may be personally aware that besides the exaggerated, unfounded and damaging comments in the document (which we believe should have been expunged since no criminal activity was apparently proven nor appear to have been pursued), additional identity and possibly security-sensitive information was also unnecessarily released by the city, unredacted. The responsibility for protecting such personal information (complying with release-ability and redaction) rests with the releasing agency which made the document available, in this case the City of Tacoma.

BORDC – Tacoma’s efforts to expose the violations of Federal and State laws shall continue until all such damaging misinformation, untrue documents and allegations are expunged and/or removed from available public records. Join us to make this a reality.


We encourage all citizens (since anyone can be, and many groups are still presently being, surveilled) and especially those who felt damaged by the City of Tacoma’s recent actions to participate in the following:

1) Attend the next "Citizens' Review Panel"
(Tacoma Municipal Building, Monday, February 7, 2011 at 5:30pm)
One currently scheduled agenda item will address the Tacoma PD's compliance with CFR 28 section 23 (Code of Federal Regulations to be followed with the acceptance of certain federal funds) regarding appropriate handling and auditing of collected information which the City and County appear unfamiliar with and unaware of their possible violations and consequences.
FAQ for this topic:
and audio link of previous meeting from Dec 6, 2010, with testimony alleging the city’s non-compliance and a file/checklist from the Dept of Justice to help them create and maintain proper oversight. At the 57 min mark you will here the BORDC-Tacoma Chairperson address the Chief of Police's remarks about the Northwest Detention Center, the Towery Affair and CFR 28:

2) Speak at the Tacoma City Council Meeting "Citizen’s Forum".
(City Council Chambers, second Tuesday of the month, February 8, 2011)
The meeting begins at 5pm, but at the closing of the meeting attendees may speak for 3 minutes about any topic under the Council's control (such as police actions and the city’s document release). We suggest speakers demand the complete release of all records associated with the Towery Dossier to include the likely emails amongst City of Tacoma staff discussing the release request and the subsequent denial or approval for dissemination (such internal requests should have occurred and should have also been included with previous document requests).

3) Persuade members of the Judiciary Committee in Olympia to expand and pass the pending Senate Bill 5048 "Washington State Enhanced Intelligence Bill"
This law, which is intended to curb the above mentioned abuses, makes clear remedies available to damaged parties and provides for oversight and auditing of such information, seemingly sorely lacking in the City of Tacoma as evidenced by the recent release.

For years BORDC - Tacoma has tried to advise, warn, and educate the City and its residents about the dangers of such “security” programs and the potential abuses which could occur. We now know, without a doubt, that they have occurred. If you are concerned by improper handling of personal information, please direct your efforts at those government parties responsible for protecting that data as a matter of course, not toward those working to expose the problems.

The timing of this unfortunate event is strangely extraordinary since it establishes an unprecedented chance to get involved and truly affect change by simply demanding compliance with the law. Remember, millions of dollars in Federal funds from the Department of Justice, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies comes to the City of Tacoma but with the caveat that they not improperly collect, store or transmit information about our First Amendment activities. The City of Tacoma has proven they have failed to comply with such requirements and you can help shine light on this egregious situation and participate in shaping real change for the future. Please join with us to make this important change happen.

Bill of Rights Defense Committee - Tacoma