By Bob Roehr
WASHINGTON – Pentagon surveillance of domestic activities is supposed to be illegal, but that hasn’t stopped the Department of Defense from carrying out such activity in the name of the war on terror. Its definition of the war on terror, however, apparently includes gays.
The latest batch of documents, received on June 22, suggests that the surveillance program was more widespread than originally believed.
Reports of spying on gays first surfaced in the press last December, and prompted the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to file a Freedom of Information request in January. In response the military hemmed and hawed and eventually coughed up documents relating to what already had appeared in print.
Among the documents released in April were reports covering three events at college campuses, including a planned “kiss-in” in protest of military recruiters at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
A February 3, 2005 TALON report, conducted by the shadowy spy office, focused on “an Internet posting” about a planned protest of recruiters on campus and at a symposium at New York University.
According to the TALON report about the email, “The term ‘OUTlaws’ is not defined in the posting. The (deleted) is concerned this is a security issue. Specifically, the term ‘OUTlaws’ is a backhanded way of saying it’s all right to commit possible violence and serve as ‘vigilantes’ during the symposium. Therefore it is possible that physical harm or vandalism could occur at this event.”
Since the source of the information was the Internet, simply Googling “outlaw” and “NYU” would have revealed that “OUTLaw is an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender law students, as well as their supporters and friends. It is a recognized student organization at NYU and scores of other law schools.”
Another batch of TALON documents covered a rally at the State University of New York of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that took place in April 2005.
The documents noted, “The fact that the protest is in a different location from the recruiters does not mean much. Protester tactics have included using mass text paging by cellular telephone to inform others of the location of the recruiters.”
Similar “intelligence” reports were filed on protest activities at William Paterson University in New Jersey, Southern Connecticut State University, and the University of California at Berkeley at about the same time.
The documents indicated that e-mails from student organizations were intercepted, monitored, and compiled, and at least one protest was observed by an agent working undercover.
“Federal government agencies have no business peeping through the keyholes of Americans who choose to exercise their first amendment rights,” said SLDN Executive Director C. Dixon Osburn. “Americans are guaranteed a fundamental right to free speech and press expression, and our country’s leaders should never be allowed to undermine those freedoms.”
“Surveillance of private citizens must stop. It is the suppression of our constitutional rights, and not the practice of them, that undermines national security,” he said. “It is patently absurd that this administration has linked sexual orientation with terrorism.”