ACLU Applauds Decision to Shut Down Pentagon Database of Secret Information on Peaceful Groups

August 21, 2007 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the decision of the U.S. Department of Defense to shut down its TALON anti-terrorism database.

Though the Defense Department began the program in 2003 to house intelligence reports about possible threats to military bases in the U.S., the DoD strayed from its intended mission and expanded the database to include reports by local law enforcement agencies and military security personnel about nonviolent demonstrations and anti-war rallies.

“It was high time for this program to be shut down,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “There should have been no place in a free democratic society for the military to be accumulating secret data on peaceful demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights.”

In December 2005, major media outlets began reporting that the DoD was storing and maintaining information on peaceful groups, many of which were protesting the war in Iraq and holding anti-recruitment events and protests. In February 2006, in the face of congressional inaction, the ACLU and some of its affiliates filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests seeking records relating to Pentagon surveillance under the TALON program. When the Pentagon failed to respond, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania resulting in the release of hundreds of pages of documents revealing in far greater detail the extent to which the U.S. military improperly kept tabs on lawful, non-violent, First Amendment activities.

“There is still too much that remains unanswered about the Pentagon’s surveillance activities in this country,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The TALON program could be just the tip of the iceberg. It remains critical that Congress investigate how the abuse of the TALON database happened in the first place and conduct proper oversight of other intrusive surveillance by the executive branch.”

A copy of the ACLU’s report on the TALON database, No Real Threat: The Pentagon’s Secret Database on Peaceful Protest, is available online at:

More information on the ACLU’s FOIA requests regarding the TALON database is available online at:

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