From the Tell-Me-Something-I-Don’t-Know Department:
The Pentagon has a secret database that indicates the U.S. military may be collecting information on Americans who oppose the Iraq war and may be also monitoring peace demonstrations, NBC reported on Tuesday.
The article notes that
Americans have been wary of any monitoring of anti-war activities since the Vietnam era when it was learned that the Pentagon spied on anti-war and civil rights groups and individuals.
Color me wary.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the NBC report about the database. However, he said: “The Department of Defense uses counterintelligence and law enforcement information properly collected by law enforcement agencies.
“The use of this information is subject to strict limitations, particularly the information must be related to missions relating to protection of DoD installations, interests and personnel,” he added.
Of course, under the Orwellian PATRIOT Act, nearly any collection of information is proper, as long as some wacko somewhere posits a threat to something.
The Pentagon has already acknowledged the existence of a counterintelligence program known as the “Threat and Local Observation Notice” (TALON) reporting system.
This system, the Pentagon said, is designed to gather “non-validated threat information and security anomalies indicative of possible terrorist pre-attack activity.”
“Non-validated” meaning what, exactly? Sounds disturbingly close to high-tech witch-hunt, red-scare type stuff to me. So I did a little Googling, and what-ho! Here’s what happens when you play in a chess tournament over the weekend: you lose track of what’s going on. Turns out The Man, Walter Pincus, had an article in Sunday’s Post that followed up on one I discussed a couple of weeks back. According to Pincus, TALON grew out of a program called Eagle Eyes, which a Pentagon spokesman described as a sort of "neighborhood watch" program for military bases.
Which makes sense. After all, what’s more vulnerable than a military base?
The Talon reports, as they are called, are based on information from civilians and military personnel who stumble across people or information they think might be part of a terrorist plot or threat against defense facilities at home or abroad.
The documents can consist of “raw information reported by concerned citizens and military members regarding suspicious incidents,” said a 2003 memo signed by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz. The reports “may or may not be related to an actual threat, and its very nature may be fragmented and incomplete,” the memo said.
I feel safer already.