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Pentagon May Be Tracking Activists

From Reuters

The Pentagon has a secret database that indicates the U.S. military may be collecting information on Americans who oppose the Iraq war and may be monitoring peace demonstrations, NBC reported Tuesday.

The database, obtained by the network, lists 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the United States over a 10-month period and includes four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, some aimed at military recruiting, “NBC’s Nightly News” said.

The network said the document was the first look at how the Pentagon had stepped up intelligence collection in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report quoted what it said was a secret document as concluding: “We have noted increased communication between protest groups using the Internet” but not a “significant connection” between incidents.

Americans have been wary of any monitoring of antiwar activities since the Vietnam era, when it was learned that the Pentagon spied on antiwar and civil rights groups and individuals. Congress held hearings in the 1970s and recommended strict limits on military spying inside the U.S.

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A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the report. However, he said: “The Department of Defense uses counterintelligence and law enforcement information properly collected by law enforcement agencies. The use of this information is subject to strict limitations, particularly the information must be related to missions relating to protection of [Pentagon] installations, interests and personnel.”

The Pentagon has acknowledged existence of a counterintelligence program known as “Threat and Local Observation Notice,” or TALON. The system is designed to gather “non-validated threat information and security anomalies indicative of possible terrorist pre-attack activity,” the Pentagon said.


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