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Pentagon spies on Quakers
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Pentagon Releases New Report of Spying on Quakers, Peace Activists and Veterans

Brenda Norrell
Human Rights Editor
U.N. OBSERVER & International Report


2006-11-27 | TUCSON, Ariz. – In this age of McCarthyism and censorship, the United States Pentagon has released a new set of documents showing it spied on peace activists, Quakers and Veterans for Peace, in what is surely a modest list of the spy operations of the Pentagon.

Pointing out that counter-terrorism resources are being used to spy on regular Americans, the American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate the surveillance of political and religious groups by the Defense Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

Recent targets of the Pentagon’s Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) were peace activists, Quakers and Veterans for Peace. The information comes from e-mails and sources.

Peace activists were spied on in Sacramento, New Orleans, Las Cruces, N.M., Fayetteville, N.C., Atlanta, Akron, Ohio, Springfield, Illinois, and elsewhere. They were spied on at a prayer service in New York.

However, the increase in spy surveillance has not dampened the efforts of peace activists and human rights activists across the nation.

In Tucson, Ariz., and elsewhere, activists are as busy, if not busier, than ever.

Isabel Garcia, co-chair of Derechos Humanos Coalition, was awarded Mexico’s highest honor for human rights in November. Mexico’s Human Rights Commission will present the Human Rights Award 2006 to Garcia in Mexico City in December.

Garcia, longtime advocate for border rights, has been in the forefront of the border struggle as she urged, “respect for the humanity of each individual”. Garcia, an attorney, has also been a target of opposition by hate groups, including Border Guardians.

Also in southern Arizona, two Roman Catholic priests were arrested as they protested military intelligence training that fosters torture at Fort Huachuca on Nov. 19.

Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly were arrested as they attempted to talk to Major General Barbara Fast, the highest-ranking officer linked to the tortures in Abu Ghraib. Fast has not been punished for her involvement. Two other officers with links to Fort Huachuca were implicated for beating deaths in Afghanistan in 2002. As the priests prayed, they were arrested and charged with trespass and released.

The Fort Huachuca protest was carried out as 20,000 others protested the infamous School of the Americas in Georgia, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Known for training torture techniques for militaries around the world, the school trained Latin leaders who were later convicted of murder, disappearances and heinous crimes.

While Tucson is absent from the Pentagon’s recently released spy reports, activists conclude that their names are not yet available because the spy operations are ongoing.

Amnesty International activists in Tucson are releasing the names and details of secret prisons, including flights from North Carolina to secret prisons, and the seizure and torture of innocent persons.

Meanwhile, the International Indian Treaty Council hosted the Border Summit of the Americas in San Xavier on the Tohono O’odham Nation, bordering Tucson, and opposed the U.S. and Mexico border wall and militarization of Indigenous homelands.

Tohono O’odham also opposed a secret hazardous waste dump planned by Mexico, with the U.S. EPA’s knowledge, 40 miles south of the border in Quitovac, Sonora, Mexico. O’odham from the U.S. and Mexico have annual ceremonies in Quitovac. The international border dissects their homelands and a border wall will further impede ceremonies and traditional routes.

Since the United States is gripped in fear and censorship, the mainstream media, for the most part, has failed to report these stories in the United States.

On Alcatraz Island, the International Indian Treaty Council brought together Pomo Indian, Palestinian and Aztec dancers, and speakers representing some of the most revolutionary and progressive thinkers, on Nov. 23. IITC said the event was not meant to cater to the Thanksgiving concept that celebrates “pitiful alien pilgrims”.

Western Shoshone gathered to launch a new effort to protect the land from gold mines in November. Since the Bureau of Land Management seized the horses of Carrie and May Dann near Crescent Valley, Nev., gold mines, including operations of Barrick Gold, have rapidly spread across the Western Shoshone’s sacred land of Mount Tenabo.

While Al Jazeera recently provided coverage, few, if any, newspapers in the United States have covered the U.S. government operation of seizing horses, including wild horses, to clear the way for gold mining operations in Nevada.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spy operations focus on peace activists.

The Quakers, whose philosophy is based on peace, have recently been a focus of federal spy operations, according to Pentagon documents.

American Indians and their peaceful protests, especially in Denver, have also been a focus of local police spy operations.

Earlier, the ACLU revealed that Denver police maintained secret spy files on American Indians and peace activists spanning 30 years. In a case that resulted in new regulations for the Denver Police Intelligence Bureau, the ACLU exposed secret police spy files maintained on attorneys at the Native American Rights Fund, a U.S. senator, Indian tribal leaders and the American Indian Movement.

Denver police spied on peaceful organizations working for Indigenous rights, including organizations to help Indigenous in Chiapas and Navajos resisting relocation on Black Mesa in Arizona. Eighty-year-old grandmothers, whose only offense was to have a “Free Leonard Peltier” bumper sticker on their car bumper were under surveillance by Denver police.

With so many people spied on, activists are asking one question: “How does the Pentagon get any work done?”

The ACLU said that Congress has failed to investigate how the Pentagon collected the information on innocent Americans and to examine which other agencies received these reports. In addition, Congress has yet to act on the hundreds of FBI documents previously obtained by the ACLU that show widespread surveillance by Joint Terrorism Task Forces of peace activists, religious groups, environmental groups and animal rights activists.

“There is increasing evidence that the Pentagon improperly targeted innocent Americans for surveillance”, said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney. “These documents send a chilling message that if you oppose the war, the military is watching you. That is simply un-American.”

One of the reports, on April 8, 2005 report lists planned protests by Veterans for Peace at nine different universities across the country. The source of the information, described as an active duty Army officer, states that “Veterans for Peace is a peaceful organization, but there is potential future protest could become violent.”

The Sacramento Bee is one of the few newspapers in America covering the latest Pentagon spy files.

Bee staff reporters Crystal Carreon and Dorothy Korber write of the Sacramento peace activists targeted. “It is the latest in a series of cases that includes the California National Guard's spying on anti-war grandmothers and secret wiretapping by the National Security Agency.”

Links:

ACLU calls for investigation
http://www.aclu.org/safefree/spyfiles/27468prs20061121.html

“Area activists spied on”
Sacramento Bee
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/81200.html