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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 5, 2006

Pentagon spied on gay groups

Papers reveal Defense Intelligence Agency watched opponents of �don�t ask, don�t tell�

Washington, D.C.--Papers released by the government prove that Pentagon intelligence agents spied on campus groups protesting the military�s ban on gay servicemembers.

The documents were the first of three sets ordered released by U.S. Dictrict Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on April 20 under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The judge ordered the Defense Intelligence Agency to release the first batch by April 27. The Defense Department must comply by May 4 and the Justice Department by May 11.

The FOIA request was filed by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington LGBT watchdog of the military�s �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy. The government did not initially comply with the group�s request, prompting a lawsuit, which is not yet concluded.

SLDN spokesperson Steve Ralls said the findings are �not surprising,� and that the Pentagon is tracking the activity of these groups because it believes them to be dangerous.

Ralls said SLDN became interested in what DIA was doing after an NBC News report on a Pentagon domestic surveillance program called Talon. They worried that SLDN might be a target.

�That creates concern for our clients, and our attorney-client privilege,� said Ralls. SLDN represents servicemembers who are targeted for discharge for being gay or lesbian.

SLDN could still be under the eye of the Pentagon or the Justice Department, but appears that DIA was concerned mostly with campus groups, who were protesting the presence of recruiters at their schools or the military action in Iraq.

All of the DIA surveillance activity took place in 2005.

It is not clear by the reports how the Talon system intercepted student emails, but that was how the groups were tracked.

The agency monitored and infiltrated a protest by students against military recruiters at University of California Santa Cruz on April 5, 2005.

The Talon �incident type� entry says there were phone, voice, and email threats, which was taken from a student�s email at a Yahoo account that begins �kick military recruiters out of ucsc� and suggests that demonstrators �have fun and bring 5 friends.�

The email also urged recipients to sign a petition in support of banning the recruiters.

The spying agent reports being concerned that civil disobedience might be used, and that �recent protests along the west coast have drawn an estimated 200-400 protesters.�

New York University�s LGBT law student group was targeted because DIA thought the group�s name, �OutLaw� meant that it had no respect for law enforcement.

The action there occurred February 4, 2005.

NYU�s law school was one of the schools that joined an unsuccessful U.S. Supreme Court case against the Solomon Amendment, which requires schools to allow recruiters or lose all federal funding, including student loans.

�The term Outlaws is not defined in the posting,� wrote the agent, adding an S to the group�s name. �[DIA] thinks 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.�

To justify the surveillance, another agent later wrote: �Per a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent and based on additional research from the original source, the term �Outlaws� may refer to the members of the gay community that are now �out� in the open that are studying at law schools.�

�However, per the original source there is almost nothing about the term �Outlaws� available with conventional Internet search engines. It is not clear if this is an organized group or if it is a term for gay law students. However, the source believes there is still a potential for confrontation at NYU.�

University of California Berkeley�s April 21, 2005 protest was also under watch.

A student e-mail was intercepted April 18 with the subject line: �Direct Action Against Military Recruiters at UCB.�

The full text of the email discusses how counter recruitment efforts have kept recruiters from meeting quotas, and supports the university�s Associated Students� resolution against the recruiters.

The message ends, �Join a growing movement of schools that are taking a stand against military recruitment on campuses!� Then it announces a civil disobedience teach-in.

�There is a strong potential for a confrontation at this protest given the strong support for anti-war protests and movements in the past,� wrote the infiltrating agent.

�The fact that the protest is in a different location from the recruiters does not mean anything,� the agent continued. �Protester tactics have included using mass text paging to inform others of the location of the recruiters.�

�Also, protesters have used diversions to bypass security personnel to get into events to conduct protests.�

Ralls said that until it is apparent that SLDN was a target, it cannot take any legal action against the government.

�But the groups that were targeted have the option of doing so,� Ralls said.

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