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Government Reportedly Monitoring Anti-War Groups In Austin

KXAN | January 25, 2007

KXAN's Shannon Wolfson has been investigating a new report that says the federal government is monitoring anti-war groups in Austin.

According to the ACLU report released this week, the Department of Defense has been monitoring peace groups around the country. At least two of them hit the government's radar after a protest inside the doors of Dobie Mall.

Some would say protests are part of the spirit of Austin. But an unclassified document released by the ACLU shows that a 2005 protest at Dobie Mall was reported by the defense department's Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, database.

About one protest in Austin, it reads: "The protesters blocked the entrance to the recruitment office with two coffins, one draped with an American flag and the other covered with an Iraqi flag."

Tomas Heikkala with Veterans for Peace said, "A certain part of my activist spirit is angry for sure, and it fuels me."
Wolfson said, "Why?"
Heikkala said, "Why? Because it's saying, 'Do something about this.'"

Heikkala was just 21 when he was drafted in 1967. He spent nine-and-a-half-months in Vietnam.

"When I came home from the Vietnam War, I knew I had participated in something I shouldn't have done, and it plagued me," said Heikkala.

So he joined Veterans For Peace, and as the chair of the Austin chapter, he talks to young people about non-violence.

Wolfson said, "Is Veterans For Peace a threat to the United States?"
Heikkala says, laughing, "No, no. It's an asset."

The local ACLU chapter echoes the national group's call for further investigation.

"It's a misuse of taxpayer dollars and resources when there are actually real threats out there that the government should be targeting," said Marti Garza with Austin's ACLU.

The ACLU report also acknowledges the Pentagon has admitted that much of the information gathered on anti-war activities should not have been in the TALON database classified as a threat to the United States. But the ACLU argues that far too little is known about how the information was gathered in the first place.

They're asking for congressional hearings into the matter.

 

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