Smart Bombs

There's nothing intelligent about the way the DPD kept its spy files.

Silverstein thinks the city should make an effort to reach everyone on the list. But in the meantime, he's working within the system. Specifically, he's suggesting that a who's who of citizen activists gather at DPD headquarters at 5:30 p.m. September 3, the first day the records will be available.

He could have plenty of company -- including some mayoral candidates.

"I want to see just how accurate they are," says Perington.

"I don't know if I'm on the list, but I'm going to ask," says Penfield Tate, a northeast Denver legislator who's announced his candidacy. "This whole controversy started in part because groups who thought they should not be subject to observation were. As a legislator and a community activist, I've been present and participated in a number of rallies. I'm concerned that someone may be retaining information on folks who are just exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression."

"I certainly wouldn't be surprised if I was in the spy files," says John Hickenlooper, the brewpub baron who's been flirting with the idea of running. "I'm probably even odds, I think, with involvement in community stuff.'

Elizabeth Schlosser, a former art gallery owner who's announced her run, doubts she's in the files, and also doubts that she'd pursue them. Ditto for Sue Casey, the ethics-stressing former member of the Denver City Council who's exploring a potential candidacy. (The most damning thing in Casey's file might be her inadvertent inspiration of the term "soccer mom.")

Asked if he's going to check his spy-file status, City Auditor Don Mares, a long-distance runner in the mayor's race, replies: "Your question makes me curious. Perhaps I will go check, given what we've heard about what kind of people could be in these files. I've attended my share of ACLU functions, marched with workers. I might have to go see, since it's our affirmative opportunity."

Steve Kaplan, city attorney under Mayor Federico Peña, understands the legal ramifications of such files. As someone contemplating a run for mayor ("I'm talking to folks and seriously thinking about it"), he also understands the political ramifications. "It's a fairly cumbersome process," he says of the system set up to determine if you're in the spy files. "It's not as accessible as it appeared."

As it stands, we'll never know who's in the files -- unless those lucky folks tell us. "I think that there has to be a way to have public disclosure of as much of the files as possible without infringing on personal privacy," says Silverstein. "There's a real issue of public accountability here."

And some of that public may never be counted. Subjects of intelligence files that the panel deemed justified will never know that they were on the list -- a list compiled by untrained officers working without legal guidelines -- or that they remain on it. When these people show up at police headquarters and ask whether they have files, they'll simply be told that no information is available.

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