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Pentagon Admits Keeping Database on US Civilians Deemed Suspicious

AFP | December15, 2006

The US military has kept a database of unverified reports on US civilians who were deemed possible threats to national security interests, US forces or military installations, a defense spokesman said.

The acknowledgement followed the disclosure of the database by NBC News, which said it contained indications that the military has been monitoring anti-war activists and protests.

It recorded 1,500 suspicious incidents over a ten month period, including four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, NBC reported .

One example cited in the report was a small gathering of activists at a Quaker meeting house in Florida to plan protests of military recruiting in high schools.

A briefing document stamped "Secret" noted "increased communication between protest groups using the Internet" but not a "significant connection between incidents," such as "reoccurring instigators" or "vehicle descriptions," NBC said.

The document indicates that information was being gathered about people who attended the meetings and the vehicles they used, a military analyst told NBC.

The defense spokesman, who would not be identified by name, would not say whether reports on activists or anti-war incidents were in the database, which is known as the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) reporting system.

But he said Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, ordered a review of the database in October in response to media queries about it.

"There was information in the database that shouldn't be in there," the spokesman said.

The database is made up of unverified reports of suspicious activities filed by "concerned citizens" and Defense Department personnel as well as by law enforcement, intelligence, security and counterintelligence organizations, he said.

"Inputs are from DoD installatioms worldwide about suspicious activity, people worried about certain things that happen along, or they see something funny," the spokesman said.

He said US law and Defense Department directives allow the military to gather information on civilians or incidents in the United States if a threat to Defense Department property, personnel or national security interests is perceived.

But the reports have to be discarded within 90 days unless they are assessed to be credible, in which case they are supposed to be passed on to law enforcement authorities for further investigation, he said.

Cambone's review found that information was not being assessed within 90 days, and not being discarded from the database, he said.

Cambone has ordered another review to determine whether the TALON reporting system complies with US law, whether policies and procedures are being properly followed, and whether any other improper information is in the database, he said.

The Pentagon also has set aside the information that should not have been in the database so it can be reviewed by US congressional committees responsible for overseeing the military.




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