Friday, February 10, 2006

The Department of Defense has admitted that some of its clandestine investigations of foreign terrorist threats dealt "inappropriately" with peace activists and gay protesters, said Sen. Carl Levin.

In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Levin referenced Tuesday, the Pentagon revealed the initial results of an internal investigation into its 3-year-old Counterintelligence Field Activity unit. The results included keeping data deemed "invalid" to terrorist threats for longer than the allotted 90 days.

First exposed by a document leak to NBC News in December, the agency runs an information-gathering project called Threat and Local Operation Notice, or TALON, which spies on so-called "suspicious incidents." Those incidents reportedly have included anti-war campus protests and demonstrations against the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy against gay personnel.

On Monday, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed a federal suit against the Defense Department and the Department of Justice, demanding fast action on a month-old Freedom of Information Act request for information about six government agencies, including CIFA. The original request was met with stall tactics, the LGBT legal group said.

The original Jan. 5 FOIA filing demanded documents and information about materials gathered on gay rights groups by CIFA, the National Security Agency, the CIA, the FBI and two units of the Justice Department. It was joined by 13 other organizations, including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network sued after it became clear that the materials would not be provided in a timely fashion, if at all.

In addition to the recent national debate over extra-legal wiretapping by the National Security Agency, the FBI has been accused of investigating Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in an effort to rout out "eco-terrorism." As for CIFA and its TALON project, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported in January that the number of Americans listed in TALON reports could be in the thousands. According to Newsweek, these would include a dozen activists who handed out peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches outside Halliburton's headquarters in Houston in June 2004, as well as the 15 or so demonstrators who waved a giant "Bush Lied" sign outside a military recruiting office in a Florida strip mall.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is particularly concerned with the suggestion that TALON snoops spied on "don't ask, don't tell" protesters at the State University of New York in Albany, William Patterson College and New York University. An alleged TALON investigation of an anti-war event on the University of California, Santa Cruz campus led Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to write a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld last month.

"Under what circumstances can peaceful protests at universities or by anti-war groups be monitored?" Feinstein wrote. "What authorities, and under what regulations, do military counterintelligence units have to conduct investigations on U.S. persons?"

Ann Rostow, PlanetOut Network
Thursday, February 9, 2006

1 comment:

sttropezbutler said...

It just gets weirder and weirder by the day.

We have two and a half more years for this administration and unless the elections in the Fall bring major changes, I really believe life as I knew it and life as I thought it would be...will be forever changed..if that hasn't occured already.

Seeing as how six months later not much as changed in New Orleans..perhaps things have really changed and I just need to get my head out of the sand.