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New documents show the scale of federal surveillance
Spying on antiwar protesters

By Nicole Colson | October 27, 2006 | Page 2

NEWLY RELEASED documents show that the U.S. government's program of domestic spying on antiwar protesters was even wider than initially thought.

Last December, the Defense Department was forced to admit that it had tracked antiwar protests around the country under a program supposedly designed to watch for "domestic terrorism."

Among the 1,500 protests and "suspicious incidents" the Pentagon tracked in its "Threat and Local Observation Notice" (TALON) database were a counter-recruitment action at the University of California-Santa Cruz and several protests organized by the American Friends Service Committee, a pacifist Quaker organization.

Internal Pentagon documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act request show that military officials went far in their attempts to label protesters as potential threats to public safety.

In one instance, a "Stop the War Now" rally held in Akron, Ohio, was deemed a "potential terrorist activity." A source noted that the rally would "have a march and reading of names of war dead," and that marchers would pass a military recruitment station and the local FBI office along the way.

Other documents include references to the potential for disruption to military recruiting. One internal report from May 2005, for instance, discussed antiwar protests at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

"The clear purpose of these civil disobedience actions was to disrupt the recruiting mission of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command by blocking the entrance to the recruiting station and causing the stations to shut down early," the report says, in reference to a career fair in which student activists had protested the presence of military recruiters.

The new documents show that intelligence reports and tips about antiwar protests, including details like the schedule for weekly antiwar planning meetings, were widely shared among analysts from the military, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

"There is simply no reason why the United States military should be monitoring the peaceful activities of American citizens who oppose U.S. war policies," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner in a statement. "When information about non-violent protest activity is included in a military anti-terrorism database, all Americans should be concerned about the unchecked authority this administration has seized in the name of fighting terrorism...It is an abuse of power and an abuse of trust for the military to play any role in monitoring critics of administration policies."

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