Statement - John Amidon, Target of Illegal Spying

February 17, 2006

It was April 20, 2005. We stood in front of the fountain at the SUNY Albany, Campus Center. As a member of Veterans For Peace, I had been asked to speak about honesty in recruitment, and about discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans by the U.S. military. New York State law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual preference- that is, unless the employer is the U.S. military. Approximately 75 students and community members attended this rally, most supporting the exclusion of recruiters from campus if recruiters continued their discrimination. It was a spirited dialogue, with discussion of important ideas ranging far beyond the stated purpose of this demonstration. The few dissenters were also open to dialogue. The disastrous and illegal war in Iraq, the energy crisis, and the continued erosion of civil liberties were very real concerns to everyone present. Little did we know we were being spied on that day!

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Seven months later in December of 2005, NBC News aired a story about groups being spied on by the government. The SUNY Albany event was one the ones that had been watched. Where was the threat to national security? I certainly don’t feel like a threat, and I didn’t feel threatened by the other people who attended the protest – even those who disagreed with me.

When asked how I felt about being spied on, I couldn't help but reflect on the breadth and scope of the U.S. intelligence community: the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon, private contractors, informants, spies, the DEA, AFT, and secret units I have yet to learn about. How, then, did they fail to predict the Soviet Union's demise, the 1998 Indian nuclear test, or the absence of Saddam's WMDs? Both al Qaeda's planning of 9/11 and its operatives were missed and the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed in 1999. Currently the Bush administration continues to ignore, discredit or distort what little real intelligence remains. On top of all this, I learn the military is spying on me. How do I feel? Genuinely irritated, but not astonished. Just what the hell is going on here?

Maybe, just maybe if the leaders of the "Free" world stopped spying on Quakers and librarians and Veterans For Peace, they might actually engage in the work we are paying them to do - protect rather than harm and threaten us. When the administration replaces life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with death, destruction and the pursuit of madness; when the three branches of the Federal government are aligned with the Fourth Estate in coercion and corruption; when the" rule of law" is replaced by" the law of man", I fear we have lost our Republic and have wrought ourselves a dictatorship. How do I feel? I feel angry, depressed and disgusted. I also feel strongly motivated to affirm and protect our inalienable rights and freedoms. I served honorably as a Corporal in the Marines during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1969. I swore an oath to support the Constitution of the United States. I still intend to honor that oath. I am not intimidated by the government spying on me. I am empowered by it. I am an average guy and I know the fate of our nation now rests in our hands. There is a real urgency now to right the course of this nation and we need everyone to participate in restoring the rule of law to our lives and to our nation. Truly that is how I feel.

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