ACLU of Northern California Seeks Pentagon Spy Files on Peace Groups

February 1, 2006 12:00 am

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Nationwide Effort Launched to Uncover Details of Pentagon Domestic Spying Program

SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California today filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of University of California students and groups whose lawful activities may have been monitored by the Pentagon. The move is part of a national ACLU effort to reveal the extent and purpose of Pentagon spying.

“Students should be able to freely express themselves on campus without fear of ending up in a military database,” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “The Department of Defense should act quickly and disclose all information it has collected on these student organizations and their members.”

The ACLU of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Guardian filed the Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of UC Santa Cruz Students Against War and UC Berkeley students involved in Berkeley Stop the War Coalition. The ACLU of Northern California is seeking the disclosure of all documents maintained by the Department of Defense on the individuals and groups, as well as information on whether the records have been shared with other government agencies.

The national ACLU filed a similar FOIA request on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice and Greenpeace. In Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, and Pennsylvania ACLU affiliates are also seeking Pentagon files on local groups.

Some of the groups involved in today’s action, such as the students at UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkley, learned through news reports in December that they are listed in the Pentagon’s Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database. The TALON program was initiated by former Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 to track groups and individuals with possible links to terrorism, but the Pentagon has been collecting information on peaceful activists and monitoring anti-war and anti-military recruiting protests throughout the United States.

Following public outcry over the Pentagon domestic spying program, current Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England issued a memorandum on January 13 directing intelligence personnel to receive “refresher training on the policies for collection, retention, dissemination and use of information related to U.S. persons.”

The ACLU has exposed and challenged other expanded domestic spying programs as well. Documents requested by the ACLU under previous FOIA requests have revealed that the FBI is using its Joint Terrorism Task Forces to gather extensive information about peaceful organizations such as Greenpeace and Food Not Bombs. Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and attorneys against the National Security Agency for illegally intercepting vast quantities of the international telephone and Internet communications of Americans without court approval.

“The Pentagon’s monitoring of anti-war protesters is yet another example of a government agency using its powers to spy on law-abiding Americans who criticize U.S. policies,” said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the national ACLU. “How can we believe that the National Security Agency is intercepting only al Qaeda phone calls when we have evidence that the Pentagon is keeping tabs on Quakers in Fort Lauderdale?”

The FOIA and the Privacy Act request are being filed with the Department of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Inspector General of Department of Defense and the Defense Intelligence Agency . For details and documents regarding the FOIA requests filed today by the ACLU around the country, including a list of clients, go to or for the ACLU of Northern California affiliate FOIA request.

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