Statement - George Main, Target of Illegal Spying

February 27, 2006

I am a veteran of the Army Security Agency, where I served as a resident linguist in Russian from 1969 to 1978. The agency reported directly to the National Security Agency, but was disbanded in 1978. After my training, I began to question the rightness of our actions and took my concerns to my commanding officer. He readily admitted that the surveillance we conducted was outside the law and even violated several treaties. And he told me to get back to work.

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Today, I am president of the Sacramento Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Sacramento VFP has organized many events in direct protest to military recruiting and the occupation of Iraq. We are open and outspoken critics of Bush's policies. Our 2004 Veteran's Day protest at the Sacramento Military Entrance Processing Station marked our organization as the first entry on a published extract from a DOD database, TALON, Threat and Local Observation Notice report. The database was compiled by a new and little-known Pentagon agency, Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA.

The story broke on MSNBC on December 13, 2005, asking the question, "Is The Pentagon Spying on Americans?" The story detailed a Pentagon program that was actively spying on American citizens engaged in anti-war and counter-military recruiting activities. I learned of the story from a flurry of emails joking that, "George made the FBI's most wanted list."

How did I react? I was relieved at first. This was validation that I wasn't paranoid. All those times I complained about my phone having a reverb and long delays where I could hear myself talking after I spoke; my joking complaints about not being able to call my home phone from my cell because the connection was unintelligible. And the two guys who didn't belong at our monthly meeting as we prepared for our Vet Day 2005 action. And all those other times I looked over my shoulder. I already have to deal with some right-wing nuts who posted my contact information and harass me on occasion. I hate going out to my '89 Ford Ranger and wincing some mornings as I start the engine.

I still remember the call I received from my government the day before Veteran's Day 2004. The man on the phone identified himself as a special agent for Homeland Security and he said he was calling about the Sacramento protest. I answered his questions: Yes, I knew it was federal property. Yes, I knew it would be closed for Veterans' Day. No, I did not represent a threat to federal property, personnel or our nation's security. My intention was only to exercise my First Amendment Rights. I also told him I expected maybe a dozen protestors considering the bad weather forecast.

It was very intimidating to have a special agent call out of the ether, saying "George, this is..." I was somewhat scared the next morning and thought to myself several times it would be nice if no one else showed up and I could just go home. Four armed, uniformed federal officers were on hand to greet the media-estimated crowd of 80 protestors on that rainy morning. The protest was peaceful and a huge success on the wettest day in recorded Sacramento history.

I am offended that my government would even consider surveilling a group of honorably discharged veterans. Our patriotism and love of country is as strong today if not greater than when we carried arms in defense of America. But I am not surprised by the arrogance of the administration. I served before the FISA court was born. I too spied on American citizens for the NSA. I questioned the legality of what I was doing but I did what I was told.

I can't just do as I'm told anymore. My children deserve better. So does my country.

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