TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: ACLU Files FOIA Requests With NSA

ACLU Files FOIA Requests With NSA

Marcus Didius Falco (
Wed, 01 Feb 2006 20:48:50 -0500

ACLU Seeks Pentagon Files on Peace Groups

WASHINGTON - February 1 - In the wake of new evidence revealing
Pentagon surveillance of peace groups and protest activities, the
American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates across the country
today filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests seeking to
uncover who is being spied on by the Pentagon and why.

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 ACLU staff attorney Ben
Wizner. 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 Quakers in Fort Lauderdale?

The ACLU filed national Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on
behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace,
United for Peace and Justice and Greenpeace, as well as dozens of local
groups in Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania and
California. The ACLU is seeking the disclosure of all documents
maintained by the Department of Defense on the individual groups. Many
of the groups involved in today's action, such as the Rhode Island-based
Community Coalition for Peace, have already learned 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 according to portions of the database that were
leaked to the media in December, 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 believes the organizations and individuals monitored by the
Pentagon have a right to know what information the military has
collected about them. Today's FOIA requests also seek to uncover
whether the TALON records have been or plan to be shared with another
agency, or otherwise disseminated.

There is mounting evidence that people who are simply exercising their
First Amendment rights to free speech or peaceful assembly are being
unfairly targeted and scrutinized, said Mary Ellen McNish, general
secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, a co-recipient of
the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of Quakers worldwide. Trampling upon
the Bill of Rights is not the answer to stopping terrorism. Let us not
erode the very principles and safeguards upon which our country was

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 spying program is part of a broad and disturbing pattern
of spying on innocent Americans, said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal
Director of the ACLU. Unchecked government spying has a chilling
effect on free speech and causes Americans to think twice before
expressing dissent or engaging in lawful protests.

For details and documents regarding the FOIA requests filed today by
the ACLU around the country, including a list of clients, go to

"We've got the hatemongers who literally hate this president, and that
is so wrong ... The people who hate George Bush hate him because he's
a follower of Jesus Christ, unashamedly says so and applies his faith
in his day-to-day operations." -- Rev. Jerry Falwell, on C-SPAN's
"Washington Journal"

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