CORRECTED: ACLU sues Pentagon over anti-war group monitoring
Deletes statement in final paragraph that the American
Friends Service Committee is “also known as the Quakers” which
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
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 pending lawsuits.
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 been monitored.
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 permission.
The latest suit is filed on behalf of some 30 groups,
including the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker
organization that promotes social justice and peace.