It's time to stick up for journalism.
When the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed late last month that NorthCom had kept tabs on Alaskans for Peace & Justice, it was news to the activists. They weren’t shocked, but they were none too happy.
“To people like myself who were around in the ’60s and 1970s, it doesn’t come as a great surprise,” says Jean Kollanti. “It shouldn’t happen, it’s wrong, and I hope no individual persons were singled out in any way because all of us were completely nonviolent.”
A NorthCom “Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection” officer had downloaded information from the Internet about Alaskans for Peace & Justice and disseminated it throughout the Alaska Command on September 5, 2005, according to a Pentagon document that the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained as part of a lawsuit.
(To view the document, go to http://www.eff.org, click on Part 1, and search within the document for Alaskans.) The NorthCom officer was warning the command about a demonstration “to be held over the weekend on 24 Sep 05,” the document states. That was the date of nationwide protests against the Iraq War, which were organized by Answer and by United for Peace and Justice. “Results of the demonstration were gathered from TV and newspaper reports,” the document states, and the information was retained in intelligence files and was discussed at a senior command staff meeting, which specifically mentioned Alaskans for Peace and Justice.
“There’s just no reason for them to be doing that,” says Paul Prebys, one of the founders of Alaskans for Peace & Justice, which came together shortly after 9/1l. “It’s an incredible invasion of my privacy.”
Kevin Morford, another member of the group, worries that there may be more here than meets the eye. “It’s only the tip of the iceberg,” he says.
Morford says the group is hardly a threat. “It’s entirely legal and nonviolent,” he says. “It sponsors speakers. It shows movies. It organizes peaceful demonstrations, mostly in the Anchorage area, including a weekly vigil. And it has float entries in the July 4 parades.”
Morford says the group has a list serve of about 700 people. “Anywhere from a handful up to a couple dozen people show up at meetings these days,” he adds.
He is concerned that the military and the FBI and the NSA are going to continue with their illegal spying.
“They’re just going to keep doing it as long as people let them get away with it,” he says.
The group’s next meeting is on Tuesday night, he says, adding that members will discuss whether to pursue the matter with the ACLU of Alaska.
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.