Pentagon is keeping secret tabs on peaceful protest activities
The following is from the American Friends Service Committee that has found that the Pentagon has been keeping a secret watch on them because they have organized and participated in peace protests. You can see the original article at http://www.afsc.org/news/2006/SecretSurveillanceFiles.htm.
Newly released surveillance files reveal Pentagon is keeping secret tabs on peaceful protest activities
American Friends Service Committee
October 12, 2006
PHILADELPHIA, (OCTOBER 12)—Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union confirm the Department of Defense (DOD) has been “spying” on peaceful protestors.
The documents reveal the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization committed to the principles of nonviolence, came under Pentagon surveillance on several occasions last year for organizing or supporting peaceful protest activity.
The Service Committee became lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this year to uncover exactly who the Pentagon is spying on and why. The requests were made under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in the wake of reports that the Defense Department has been conducting secret surveillance of legal protest activities and individuals whose only reported “wrong-doing” was “attending a peace rally.”
The FOIA documents obtained from the suit note DOD surveillance in February and March, 2005, of email announcing peace demonstrations in two cities. Both activities were organized by or conducted in partnership with one of AFSC’s regional offices.
“The Department of the Army has confirmed through our FOIA request that they had AFSC under surveillance in spite of our Quaker adherence to nonviolence and peaceful protest,” states Michael McConnell, director of the AFSC Great Lakes Region, where documented instances of DOD spying occurred. “Besides being a waste of time and taxpayer money, this essentially amounts to a ‘fishing expedition’ that undermines rather than enhances national security. This disclosure of documents means that no one is safe from the arbitrary intrusive eye of government surveillance.”
“If the government has avowed pacifists under surveillance, then no one is safe,” states Greg Coleridge, an AFSC community organizer based in Akron, Ohio, where a sponsored protest at a military recruitment station and at the Federal Building was earmarked as “suspicious.” According to the documents, the threat was later found to be “not credible.”
The email that prompted DOD scrutiny announced a “Stop the War, Now” rally held to commemorate the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
“We need to be clear,” Coleridge states. “The Pentagon is snooping on individuals and groups that have no history of organizing or even calling for violence against the government. If people and groups like this can be monitored, then we need to ask ‘where does it end?’ ”
With the constitutionality of warrantless wiretapping of ordinary Americans debated in court and bills supporting it before Congress—Frist in the Senate and the recently green-lighted Wilson bill in the House of Representatives—the question gains added significance and reason for concern.
“The Bush administration maintains that the threat of terrorism mandates a change in government policy. However, we believe trampling the Bill of Rights and dismantling our Constitution will not erase the threat of terrorism,” states Joyce Miller, assistant general secretary for justice and human rights. “Conversely, eroding constitutional safeguards and destroying the principles of democracy on which our country was founded make us less safe and less secure.”
An “all are welcomed” email was enough to merit government spying at a series of protests at military recruitment offices in Springfield, Massachusetts, on the second anniversary of the Iraq War. The protests, held from March 18-20, were sponsored by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of faith and secular peace organizations.
“What does it say about a government that is wasting both time and resources watching its own law-abiding citizens?” asks Keith Harvey, director of the AFSC New England regional office, cosponsor of the Springfield event. “Imagine what could happen if we give the government unrestrained authority to spy on anyone without answering to anyone?”
“Our country is governed by the rule of law, not the politics of hysteria and fear,” Miller emphasized. “Spying on citizens for merely executing their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly is chilling and marks a troubling trend. Our country is built upon a system of checks and balances. These actions violate the rule of law and strike a severe blow against our Constitution.”
In addition to the Service Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of 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.
With national headquarters in Philadelphia, the American Friends Service Committee is internationally recognized for its humanitarian work and long history fighting for human rights and against injustice. The Service Committee is a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of all Quakers for work to heal the wounds of war, especially efforts to feed starving children and help Europe rebuild during and after World Wars I and II.
The Service Committee was at the forefront of combating illegal FBI surveillance tactics in the 1970s. At that time, under the Freedom of Information Act, AFSC secured hundreds of federal files detailing illegal government surveillance projects and intelligence documents targeting U.S. peace groups.
“No one should have the power to unilaterally, secretly, and indefinitely spy on or wiretap Americans without court oversight of individual warrants to safeguard our fundamental rights to privacy, liberty and due process of law,” Miller concludes.
This article is part of the following collection:
- War on Terror: Crackdown on Civil Rights; War on Freedom
- Amnesty International: Human Rights Backlash
- U.S. Intensifies the War of Words
- America’s hyperreal war on terrorism
- Post-September 11 Corporate Stance
- Goodbye to Patriotism
- The Silence on Terrorism
- The New McCarthyism
- American Caesar
- Farewell Liberty
- Bush’s Aggressive Accounting
- Race War
- The War on Dissent Widens
- The USA PATRIOT Act Was Planned Before 9/11
- FBI digs deeper into the Web
- Seven Points
- The War on Freedom and Democracy in the EU
- Overview of Changes to Legal Rights
- How I became a target for America’s zealots
- Washington’s Eye on the Internet
- High treason in the U.S. government
- US Librarians See 'Big Brother' Monitoring
- Muted Response to Ashcroft’s Sneak Attack on Liberties
- Our Designated Killers, 'Where Is the Outrage?'
- Our voices are lost in the tide of intolerance sweeping America
- Broad Domestic Role Asked for C.I.A. and the Pentagon
- Amnesty International: No Shortcut to Genuine Security
- Asian Security Talks Risk Giving Green Light to Repression
- South African Anti-Terror Bill Draconian
- Rage. Mistrust. Hatred. Fear. Uncle Sam’s Enemies Within
- US Anti-war Activists Hit by Secret Airport Ban
- On the Record
- Army Admits Using JetBlue Data
- Congress Defunds Controversial 'Total Information' Program
- Federal Judge Rules Part of Patriot Act Unconstitutional
- Executive Power after 9-11 in the United States
- War on Terror or War on Liberties?
- War on Global Values
- India’s 'No' to 9-11 Legacy
- Homeland Security: The price of safety
- Republicans See Signs That Pentagon Is Evading Oversight
- Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?
- Judge Rules NSA Warrantless Spy Program Unconstitutional
- Pentagon is keeping secret tabs on peaceful protest activities
- Is Princeton Professor and Retired Marine on Government No-Fly List for Criticizing the White House?
- Corporate Takeover of US Intelligence
- US and Europe Near Agreement on Private Data
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