Homeland Security Gave Pentagon Information on Anti-War Student Groups in California

July 18, 2006 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Department of Homeland Security provided the Pentagon with information on anti-war protests at University of California campuses last year, according to the most recent government documents released to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

“Homeland Security was created to protect the American people from terrorist activities – not monitor political dissent on college campuses,” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “These documents raise significant questions about the extent to which the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring anti-war activities.”

Students at the University of California Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses first learned that their activities were being monitored when NBC News reported last December that a secret Pentagon database contained information on several anti-war protests across the country. On March 7, 2006 the ACLU and the San Francisco Bay Guardian filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for documents held by the Defense Department on Santa Cruz Students Against the War and the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition, which were both listed in the portion of the database obtained by NBC. The FOIA also seeks policy information on the creation and maintenance of the database.

The most recent documents obtained by the ACLU include two previously redacted reports on the Berkeley and Santa Cruz student groups. Both documents indicate that “a special agent of the federal protective service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security” provided the Pentagon with information on the students.

The two Defense Department Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) bulletins, dated April 4, 2005 and April 20, 2005, state that the information was provided “to alert commanders and staff to potential terrorist activity or apprise them of other force protection issues.” The bulletins also indicate that the Defense Department briefed and coordinated with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Francisco about the campus demonstrations.

The documents were released by the Pentagon following a May 26 order by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup to expedite the ACLU’s FOIA request. In his decision, Judge Alsup wrote that the information requested was “of significant importance to public policy and public protest.”

To date, the ACLU has received more than 150 pages of documents. Most of the documents relate to procedures surrounding the creation of TALON reports. Based on the documents, it appears that regulations governing the TALON reports are still insufficient, said the ACLU.

Amitai Schwartz and Lisa Sitkin from the Law Offices of Amitai Schwartz are cooperating counsel on the case, ACLU of Northern California v. United States Department of Defense.

The FOIA documents are online at www.aclunc.org/pressrel/060718-foia.html#docs.

For more information on the ACLU’s efforts to uncover government spying, including a legal challenge to the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program, go to www.aclu.org/nsaspying.

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