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Did the California National Guard spy on protesters?

By Elizabeth Schulte | July 8, 2005 | Page 2

THE CALIFORNIA National Guard is under investigation--for spying on Californians. According to press reports, National Guard personnel monitored a Mother's Day rally at the state capitol building sponsored by antiwar groups, which include the families of slain American soldiers.

Guard officials deny the charge, but according to e-mails obtained by the San Jose Mercury News, the unit was tracking the protest under the auspices of California's "Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion" program.

According to the e-mails, three days before the rally, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's press office alerted the Guard about the event. The information went up the chain of command to then-National Guard leader Major Gen. Thomas Eres, who established a special intelligence unit within the Guard last year, and to Col. Jeff Davis, who oversaw the unit.

"Sir," Guard chief of staff Col. John Moorman wrote in the e-mail to Eres that was copied to Davis and other top commanders. "Information you wanted on Sunday's demonstration at the Capitol." "Thanks," Davis responding. "Forwarding same to our Intell. folks who continue to monitor."

The protest was organized by the groups Gold Star Families for Peace, Raging Grannies and CodePink. "Our median age is 72--we are not threatening," Raging Grannies co-chair Ruth Robertson told the Associated Press. "We are all about peace." Robertson suspects her group was targeted because it tries to convince people not to enlist in the Army.

Eres formed the special intelligence unit following the September 11 attacks, giving it "broad authority" to monitor, analyze and distribute information on terrorist threats. There are rules barring the military from gathering information on American citizens, and California Guard officials deny that they have violated these restrictions.

But this is far from the first accusation of the spying on activists. Two years ago, the state's Criminal Intelligence Bureau warned Oakland police about "potential violence" during a planned antiwar march to picket the docks. Police ended up opening fire on peaceful protesters with wooden dowels and other projectiles, injuring at least a dozen people.

"I think it's because we come so close to the truth," Cindy Sheehan of the Gold Star Families for Peace told Socialist Worker. "If they were so concerned about protecting American citizens from terrorism, they should start with the administration. They are responsible for so many deaths since taking office. The hypocrisy is so stunning."

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