THE RETURN OF COINTELPRO? In one of the scarier articles I've read this week, an ACLU lawsuit has forced the Defense Department to turn over the information they've collected on anti-war protesters. The revelations are not comforting. The military labeled, for instance, a "Stop the War Now!" rally in Akron, Ohio, a site for "potential terrorist activity" (which, taken very literally, makes sense, as any place where humans can effectively exist has the potential for terrorist activity). Students United for Peace and Justice, an anti-war group at my alma mater of Santa Cruz, also made the cut. The reason they were considered a threat to military personnel? They protested recruiters for "don't ask, don't tell." Indeed, such information as weekly planning meetings for protests were collected and distributed across the military, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security.
Lest you think this is notable for merely being chilling, it's also against the law. The government, which has to delete non-useful information after 90 days, has been leaving the collected data in computers, in violation of federal statute. "Talon," the database where such information is kept, contains postings about more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" over the last few years, many of them protests, many of them judged by analysts to "pose no threat." In other words, the government is unlawfully spying and retaining information on peaceful activists opposed to its policies. Feel safer?