ACLU of Pennsylvania Seeks Pentagon Files on Peace Groups

February 1, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU of Pennsylvania
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Part of a National Effort to Uncover Details of Pentagon Domestic Spying


PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today filed

a federal Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of local peace activists

and protest 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.

“Pentagon spies do not belong in Pittsburgh, in Philadelphia or in State

College,“ said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the ACLU of

Pennsylvania. “We don’t need the military to protect us from lawful protests by

concerned citizens.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request

on behalf of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, the Thomas Merton Center, the

Anti-War Committee, CODEPINK Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Raging Grannies,

Pittsburgh Bill of Rights Defense Campaign and the Save Our Civil Liberties

Campaign. The ACLU 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. Other ACLU affiliates are seeking Pentagon files on local groups in

Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, and California.

Some of the groups involved in today’s action, such as the Pittsburgh

Organizing Group, 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 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 student

activists in Pittsburgh?”

For details and documents regarding the FOIA requests filed today by the ACLU

around the country, including a list of clients, go to www­

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