For some time now, the ACLU has been trying to determine the extent to which the Pentagon has spied on antiwar groups. For instance, in my annual Muzzle Awards roundup for the Phoenix last Fourth of July, I noted that ACLU chapters in Maine and Rhode Island had joined efforts to force the Defense Department to turn over records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Well, yesterday we learned a whole lot more. Bloomberg reports that 2,821 organizations or events involving Americans were logged into a database of terrorist threats, known as TALON, as of December 2005 — and that 186 of those involved antiwar protests organized by the Quakers and other groups.
The ACLU observes:
The Pentagon’s misuse of the TALON database must be viewed in the wider context of increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens. With the help of phone companies, the National Security Agency has been tapping phones and reading email without a warrant. The FBI has gathered information about peace activists, and recruited confidential informants inside groups like Greenpeace and PETA. All of these actions are part of a broad pattern of the executive branch using “national security” as an excuse for encroaching on the privacy and free speech rights of Americans without adequate oversight.
Ironically, the ACLU news comes at the same time that we learn the Bush administration has worked out a deal with the FISA court over the NSA’s wiretapping program. Don’t you feel better?