April 24, 2006

Rumsfeld sued over Pentagon’s recruiting database

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Six New York teen-agers sued Pentagon
chief Donald Rumsfeld on Monday, alleging the U.S. Department
of Defense broke the law by keeping an extensive database on
potential recruits.

The suit in federal court in Manhattan follows a series of
allegations last year of misconduct by recruiters, who have
experienced difficulty meeting targets because of the war in

The Pentagon last year acknowledged it had created a
database of 12 million Americans, full of personal data such as
grades and Social Security numbers, to help find potential
military recruits.

The Pentagon has defended the practice as critical to the
success of the all-volunteer U.S. military, and said it was
sensitive to privacy concerns.

But the suit alleges the Pentagon improperly collected data
on people as young as 16 and kept it beyond a three-year limit,
and said that the law does not allow for keeping records on
race, ethnicity, gender or social security numbers.

"On the one hand Congress has afforded broad latitude to
collect information but on the other hand the Department of
Defense has completely flouted those limits," said Donna
Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union,
which filed the suit on behalf of the six plaintiffs.

The Pentagon referred the case to a spokeswoman who was not
immediately available for comment.

Although the database was created in 2003, before the U.S.
military started missing recruiting targets, the Pentagon first
revealed the program in the federal register last year just has
it was hit by other recruiting scandals.

The plaintiffs -- all 16- and 17-year-old students from the
New York area -- were approached by military recruiters even
after demanding that their information be stricken from the
database, Lieberman said.

They want the court to declare the database illegal, force
the military to stop keeping improper records and pay for their

The suit names Rumsfeld; David Chu, the under secretary of
defense for personnel and readiness, and Matt Boehmer, the
Pentagon's director of advertising and market research studies.

"There's nothing sinister," Chu said when responding to
criticism of the program last year.