ACLU of Florida Seeks Pentagon Files on Anti-War Groups
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACLU Launches Nationwide Effort to Uncover Details of Pentagon Domestic Spying Program
MIAMI — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of itself, seven other Florida organizations, and four local peace activists whose lawful activities may have been monitored by the Pentagon. The move is part of a national ACLU effort to reveal the extent and purpose of Pentagon spying.
“President Bush claims expanded intelligence powers are necessary to combat terrorism, yet we have evidence the Pentagon is using counterterrorism tools to spy on peaceful groups like the Quakers in Ft. Lauderdale,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “Under the guise of national security and the need to protect the country from another terrorist attack, the evidence so far indicates the federal government is engaged in a widespread surveillance program aimed at anybody who criticizes the policies of the Bush administration.”
The ACLU of Florida filed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on behalf of itself as well as the Patriots for Peace, Melbourne Florida Counter Inaugural, the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, the Fort Lauderdale Friends Meeting, the Haiti Solidarity Committee, the Broward Anti-War Coalition, the Truth Project, and Florida residents Pete D. Ackerman, Jeffrey Allen Nall, Bruce K. Gagnon, and Maria A. Telesca-Whipple. Complete descriptions of the organizations and individuals appear in the FOIA request, available online at: www.aclufl.org/issues/national_security/PentagonSpyingFOIA.pdf
The ACLU of Florida is seeking the disclosure of all documents maintained by the Department of Defense on the individuals and groups, as well as information on whether the records have been shared with other government agencies.
The national ACLU filed a similar FOIA request on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice and Greenpeace. Other ACLU state affiliates are seeking Pentagon files on local groups in Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania and California.
Some of the groups involved in today’s action, such as the Fort Lauderdale Friends Meeting, learned through news reports in December 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 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 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.
For details and documents regarding the FOIA requests filed today by the ACLU around the country, including a list of clients, go to www.aclu.org/spyfiles
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