ANSWER Coalition Files FOIA Request

ANSWER Coalition Files FOIA Request on Pentagon spying of the antiwar movement.

The Partnership for Civil Justice, a civil rights litigation firm, today filed a Freedom of Information Request, on behalf of the antiwar group the ANSWER Coalition, and also on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, after learning that the Department of Defense (DOD) is maintaining a database of identified "threats" that includes information on protests and political activists who oppose the war. Defense officials responded to reports of the database on Tuesday by saying that the Pentagon has a right to maintain information to help protect military installations. One of the database listings was a major anti-war protest on March 19, 2005 identified in the Pentagon’s records as taking place at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles.

This is getting just a teensy bit personal as I helped organize that anti-war protest. And come March 18, 2006, we’ll be doing it again, regardless of how much the Pentagon attempts to intimidate and stifle the anti-war movement. They tried the same thing in the 60’s and it didn’t work then either. Anti-war sentiment became mainstream and they lost their idiot war for empire. Just like now.

A confidential DOD document, according to NBC News, indicates in-depth domestic surveillance such as the specific monitoring of vehicles and specific individuals from one protest to another. The database lists 1,500 "suspicious incidents" around the country over a 10-month period, including four dozen anti-war meetings or protests.

The exposure of the "threat incident" database containing information on protests and political activists makes clear that the U.S. military is spying on civilians in the United States who oppose the war in Iraq and U.S. militarism. The Department of Defense’s assertion that it is keeping this list to protect military bases is belied by its collecting and maintaining information on the anti-war protest in downtown Los Angeles as well as activities on campuses and organizing meetings across the country. The "threat" that the Pentagon is protecting against is a powerful mass movement of opposition to the U.S. war drive, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice and co-chair of the NLG Mass Defense Committee.

The FOIA request asks for information maintained by the Pentagon including in its Talon database system on protests and political activists. The request includes data and documents relating to the Hollywood and Vine demonstration, the ANSWER Coalition which organized the March 19, 2005 Los Angeles anti-war demonstration, and the National Lawyers Guild, a progressive bar association that has worked to defend the rights of protestors and to challenge illegal and unconstitutional police practices. "

The Pentagon and other government agencies are routinely violating the First Amendment rights of people in the United States who are coming together to demand an end to the criminal war and occupation in Iraq. No amount of government intimidation can stop the antiwar movement, now that opposition to the war has become a majority sentiment," stated Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition.

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