Homeland Security Spies on Student Anti-War Groups
July 18, 2006
You probably know that the Pentagon has been spying on anti-war groups.
Now it turns out that Homeland Security has been working hand in glove with the Pentagon—at least in California.
The ACLU of Northern California released two documents on July 18 that reveal Homeland Security as a source of information for the Pentagon on protests at the University of California Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.
One Pentagon document is dated April 6, 2005. It is labeled a “Talon report.” Talon stands for Threat and Local Observation Notice, and that’s the system the Pentagon uses to gather data on what it considers to be domestic threats.
Under “Incident Type,” this document says “Specified Threats.”
Under “Subject,” it says, “Protest Against Military Recruiters at University of California at Santa Cruz (USC) on 5 Apr. 05.”
Under “Source,” it says: “A special agent of the Federal Protective Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Source is reliable.”
Evidently, the source had access to the e-mail of the peace activists because the document says: “Source received an e-mail from [blacked out] at e-mail address [blacked out] dated 1 April 2005 (PST), subject: Action Tuesday to Kick Military Recruiters Out of USC!”
This e-mail tells demonstrators “to have fun and bring 5 friends,” the Pentagon document notes. It also says, “Sign the petition to ban recruiters from USC.”
The document adds, “The text of the e-mail does not state if civil disobedience is planned to occur at this protest.”
Under “Coordinating Agencies,” the document lists, among others, “902d MI Group,” and “JTTF San Francisco.”
“The 902d Military Intelligence Group conducts Counterintelligence (CI) activities in support of Army Commanders and to protect Army forces, secrets, and technologies by detecting, identifying, neutralizing and exploiting Foreign Intelligence Services (FIS) and International Terrorist Threats,” according to its website.
JTTF stands for the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. “They are our nation's front line on terrorism: small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” says the FBI at its website.
In the similar document about the Berkeley protest, the “Coordinating Agencies” were Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service and the Joint Terrorism Task Force of San Francisco.
“The Department of Homeland Security has an important public safety mission,” says spokesman Russ Knocke. “In a post 9/11 world, I think the public would be comforted to know that part of our mission is to maintain situational awareness of possible vulnerabilities to public safety or even security, such as, for instance, at large public gatherings. The department will, as a routine matter, maintain situational awareness of large public gatherings and share that with state and local partners.”
The involvement of Homeland Security in monitoring campus anti-war protests does not sit well with the ACLU.
“Homeland Security was created to protect the American people from terrorist activities, not monitor political dissent on college campuses,” said Mark Schlosberg of the ACLU of Northern California in a press release. “These documents raise significant questions about the extent to which the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring anti-war activities.”
The Santa Cruz protest was carefully planned.
“It was our first big event as a group,” says Kate Flanagan, a member of UC Santa Cruz’s Students Against War, who was a freshman at the time. “We decided we were going to make the recruiters leave campus.”
Chanting slogans like “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, hey recruiters go away,” about 270 students arrived at the building where the career fair was being held, she says. The group was able to get about 70 students inside the building, and eventually the recruiters did leave, she recalls.
“There was no confrontation,” she says. “We were having a teach-in inside. We wanted it to be a hate-free campus. We had a speak-out afterwards that gave all students the mic if they wanted it. A couple of counter-demonstrators talked, too.”
On December 14, 2005, MSNBC did a story entitled “Is the Pentagon Spying on Americans?” NBC then posted a chart the Pentagon had been keeping on a variety of actions, including Students Against War.
Flanagan says she and other group members took it in stride.
“It was kind of validating almost to show that what we were doing was important and they were scared about what we were doing, which showed we had the power to disrupt normal state of affairs,” she says. “We were aware of COINTELPRO and the spying on activists in the ’60s and ’70s, so we weren’t surprised that the government was spying on us. Everyone else was a lot more shocked than we were.”
About Homeland Security’s spying, she asks, “Who is being protected from what here?” She denounces the government for using its resources “to protect itself from dissent instead of taking care of its citizens.”
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