Tuesday, April 11, 2006
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of Defense, which confirm the military's surveillance of organizations working to repeal the Military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy, PageOneQ has learned.
"The very idea that the federal government believes freedom of speech is a threat to national security is unconscionable," Steve Ralls, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Director of Communications told PageOneQ today. “The Pentagon has acknowledged that collection of the information was perhaps inappropriate,” Mr. Ralls said as he cited an earlier report by United Press International on the Pentagon’s admission.
Mr. Ralls also explained that Servicemembers Legal Defense Network fully expects the federal government to “discontinue surveillance because there was no legitimate reason to begin it in the first place."
The Department of Defense, according to the 16 pages of documents it released, monitored protests against the DADT policy at college campuses in New York City, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. A counterintelligence agent reported on the protests against Military recruitment on campuses had "a strong potential for confrontation at this protest..." Discounting a theory that the protest was taking place in a separate location from Military recruiting, the agent wrote "tactics have included using mass text paging to inform others of the location of the recruiters."
The Department of Defense has indicated that it's search for documents relating to surveillance of groups opposed to Don't Ask, Don't tell continues.
The documents are available here.
The SLDN Press release is below
WASHINGTON, DC – The Department of Defense (DoD) has released documentation confirming government surveillance of groups opposed to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. The government’s TALON reports were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense
Network (SLDN) in January. The release of the documents follows media reports indicating government surveillance of civilian groups at several universities across the country. The Department of Defense acknowledged that it had ‘inappropriately’ collected information on protestors in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to a February report by United Press International.
“The Department of Defense has now confirmed the existence of a surveillance program monitoring LGBT groups,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of SLDN. “Pentagon leaders have also acknowledged inappropriately collecting some of the information in the TALON database. That information should be destroyed and no similar surveillance should be authorized in the future. Free expression is not a threat to our national security.”
Although the recently released TALON reports may not be a complete list of groups monitored, it does confirm domestic surveillance of protests at New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. DoD has indicated that it continues to search for other documents related to SLDN’s FOIA request.
In February, SLDN filed a lawsuit as part of its efforts to obtain information related to the government’s domestic spy program. The TALON documents, complete information on the lawsuit and the domestic surveillance program are available online at www.Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.org.