Spying on Protestors?

by TChris

As TalkLeft reported yesterday, there is reason to question whether a unit of the California National Guard was created to spy on U.S. citizens who disagree with their government's policies.

Under scrutiny is a California National Guard unit with a tongue-twisting name: the Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion program. It was established last year, and came to public attention after a recent story in the San Jose Mercury News. The Guard has described the unit as consisting of two members who monitor the military's classified e-mail system and seven others who help gauge terrorist threats to bridges, buildings and other structures.

There's nothing nefarious about monitoring military email or assessing threats, but there's more.

Investigators also are looking into the Guard's monitoring of a Mother's Day anti-war demonstration at the state Capitol that was organized by several peace groups. The activities were documented in e-mails originating in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's press office and made public by the newspaper. That monitoring was by a second unit, the Guard's Domestic Watch Center.

Engaging in peaceful protest is protected by the Constitution. The government should not chill the exercise of that right by spying on protestors.

A spokesman for the Guard unit claims that only news coverage was monitored, and that nobody spied on protestors. Yet the unit's mission has led to a federal probe that involves the "Army's inspector general, the federal National Guard Bureau's inspector general and the National Guard Bureau's legal division."

Those assurances failed to assuage civil libertarians, lawmakers, the governor's office and Army investigators -- who are all trying to determine whether the Guard has crossed a legal line and engaged in domestic spying.

A state investigation, lauched in response to reports of emails referring to information about protestors being passed along to "our Intell. folks," has been blocked, according to state Sen. Joe Dunn.

Last week, Dunn asked the Guard to preserve any documents related to monitoring of the anti-war rally and the new intelligence unit. At the same time, computer technicians at the Guard erased the hard drive of a retiring colonel who oversaw the intelligence unit and wrote the e-mail mentioning the "Intell. folks."

Dunn wants to protect lawful protest from domestic spies.

Dunn unveiled new legislation meant to erect stronger anti-spying barriers in California. The senator said he would look to expand federal laws banning the military from engaging in domestic spying to cover the National Guard, which is generally exempt from that regulation.

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  • Re: Spying on Protestors? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:59 PM EST
    You may have seen this issue in a local paper; this is one of todayís better stories. Itís Sen. Dunnís latest investigative foray; this time into accusations of domestic spying by the California National Guard. Protesters accuse Guard of spying State Senate panel investigates military unit's monitoring of anti-war rally in Capitol Park By Kevin Yamamura -- Bee Staff Writers Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, July 7, 2005 The California National Guard's monitoring of a Mother's Day anti-war rally in Capitol Park sparked a state Senate investigation into domestic spying and a Sacramento protest Wednesday at Guard headquarters. The Guard denied that it spies on Californians and downplayed its Mother's Day activity as an effort to track media coverage of the Capitol Park event. But protesters and state Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, said they fear the Guard uses state resources to monitor politically active residents. Dunn also is concerned by the Guard's erasure last week of computer evidence related to its monitoring efforts. "If they can spy on peaceful grandmothers like us, what's next, the PTA?" asked Ruth Robertson, co-chair of the Peninsula Raging Grannies, one of the groups behind the Mother's Day rally. "Why are we wasting taxpayers' money on this?" Dunn began researching the unit last week after the San Jose Mercury News reported the Guard tracked a Mother's Day protest in Sacramento involving grandmothers and families of Iraq war victims. Dunn chairs the Senate budget subcommittee that oversees the Guard's state funding. He reiterated his demand Wednesday that the Guard turn over all records on the "Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion" program. The obscure division analyzes data gathered by state agencies to determine potential terrorism targets in California, among other tasks, said Lt. Col. Doug Hart, the Guard's public affairs director. Hart said Guard officials will "do our best to meet (Dunn's) request" by a Friday deadline. Dunn asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to order that all relevant records be kept in California. In a response letter, Schwarzenegger's deputy chief of staff, Richard Costigan, stated that the governor will assure that Dunn has access to those records. "There is no intention to deny you critical information, and the governor has directed that all pertinent information (including the computer hard drive mentioned in your letter) is retained and secured for your eventual review," Costigan wrote. The senator sought a subpoena through the Senate Rules Committee to enforce his request, but the committee will not decide on the matter until next week at the earliest, said Alicia Dlugosh, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. Dunn was further alarmed Tuesday after learning that the Guard had erased a computer belonging to the unit's leader, Col. Jeff Davis, who retired last month. The senator said the erasure could amount to evidence destruction, and sought immediate access to the computer so a Senate technician could recover any information. Hart said Davis' computer had been erased as a standard practice for departing employees. But he said the Guard likely will recover the information. At the Guard's headquarters 10 miles east of downtown, about 30 protesters made it as far as the front door Wednesday to protest what they considered spying on civilians. Hart met the group outside in an attempt to offer explanations. "We have never done any spying on individuals," Hart said. "We never intend to." All Guard officials did, Hart said, was monitor the rally on TV news - he wasn't even sure the protest made it onto any of the local stations. Such monitoring is standard, he said, adding that Guard officials need to see if any public safety problems occur that require the Guard's help. Also, Hart said, Guard officials often just like to see what people are saying about them in the media. "We don't monitor TVs to watch protesters," Hart said. "We watch it for instances where we might be asked to support other agencies." For several minutes, the protesters and Hart exchanged arguments but remained civil. "This is a police job and not a job of our California National Guard - who should be home, who should be protecting us ... and not spying on our wives, our mothers and our grandmothers," said George Main, president of the Sacramento chapter of Veterans for Peace. Hart responded quickly. "You're absolutely right, and we are not doing any of those things." Guard Brig. Gen. John R. Alexander wrote Dunn on Tuesday that the Guard could not respond to the senator's request until it coordinated with federal investigators who began an inquiry on the matter Wednesday. Dunn said any obstruction of the Senate investigation to accommodate federal officials would be tantamount to a "cover-up." He said there are outstanding questions about whether federal officials used Guard units to spy on citizens in California and elsewhere to circumvent a federal restriction on domestic spying. "That is the classic fox guarding the henhouse situation," Dunn said of a possible federal investigation. "If in fact the creation of this unit was done at the request of the federal authorities, they ought to be honest enough to have independent investigators come to California to look at the activities of the unit." According to the May e-mail thread released by the Guard that led to the Mother's Day controversy, a Schwarzenegger press aide alerted the Guard of the May 8 event at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in which various groups urged state officials to bring home Guard personnel from Iraq by Labor Day. The message bounced between Guard officials, with brief comments. In one message, Davis noted, "Thanks. Forwarding same to our Intell. folks who continue to monitor." Even if Guard officials were just keeping tabs on the rally on TV, they still broke the law, said Natalie Wormeli, one of the organizers of the Mother's Day rally. Guard officials, she said, can only legally monitor people if there is reasonable suspicion they are involved in illegal activities. "There is no reasonable suspicion," she said. "There is no nexus between us and any illegal activity. They were on duty, in that building, watching TV to see what we were up to." http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/13190610p-14033851c.html

    Re: Spying on Protestors? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:00 PM EST
    That's nice, but we know for SURE that the Guard rolled a tank on protesters in Los Angeles a few months ago. This was probably the act of a few soldiers and a few higher-ups. What really is going on is that rightwing elements of the Guard are doing something that the legitimate rest of the Guard is trying to cover up. Converting the Guard into a permanent fighting unit was step one. Wingers within that service are being abetted by wingers in command. The collaboration between USMC and CNG in last Fall's tank incident (which was never officially investigated) is evidence that the rightwing is accessing and using CNG equipment, and probably technology and funding.