Pentagon over anti-war group monitoring
By Jon Hurdle
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S.
Defense Department on Wednesday to demand information it says the government
has collected on groups opposed to the war in Iraq.
The group says the Pentagon has been monitoring anti-war groups and
individuals and has compiled lists on people it sees as potential threats
but who the ACLU says are exercising their free-speech rights.
The suit was the ACLU's first attempt to force the Pentagon to disclose
domestic surveillance and followed similar suits by the organization against
the FBI and the Justice Department.
"It's absolutely improper for the U.S. military to keep databases on lawful
First Amendment (free-speech) activities," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner.
"These are peaceful, law-abiding groups and individuals that oppose U.S. war
policy but pose no threat to the military."
The ACLU said the Defense Department shared the information with other
government agencies through the database, known as the Threat and Local
Observation Notice, or Talon.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said the Defense Department never commented on
In April, the Pentagon said a review found it had collected data on U.S.
peace activists and discovered that about 260 entries in the Talon database
should not have been kept there or should have been removed.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for eastern Pennsylvania, charges the
Pentagon is refusing to comply with requests by the ACLU to declare who had
The ACLU filed the requests after learning through an NBC News report of
Pentagon surveillance of peace groups.
The ACLU has also challenged President George W. Bush's order authorizing
the National Security Agency to tap into private phone calls without court
The latest suit is filed on behalf of some 30 groups, including the
Americans Friends Service Committee, also known as the Quakers.