ACLU of Pennsylvania Seeks Pentagon Files on Peace Groups
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Part of a National Effort to Uncover Details of Pentagon Domestic Spying
PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today filed
a federal Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of local peace activists
and protest groups 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.
“Pentagon spies do not belong in Pittsburgh, in Philadelphia or in State
College,“ said Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney for the ACLU of
Pennsylvania. “We don’t need the military to protect us from lawful protests by
The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
on behalf of the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, the Thomas Merton Center, the
Anti-War Committee, CODEPINK Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Raging Grannies,
Pittsburgh Bill of Rights Defense Campaign and the Save Our Civil Liberties
Campaign. The ACLU 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 affiliates are seeking Pentagon files on local groups in
Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, and California.
Some of the groups involved in today’s action, such as the Pittsburgh
Organizing Group, 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.
“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 Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the national ACLU. “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 student
activists in Pittsburgh?”
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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