boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

Antiwar protests listed as threats in terror database

Pentagon says data later deleted

WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department listed 2,821 organizations or events involving Americans in a terrorist threat database as of December 2005, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, including at least 186 antimilitary protests in the United States.

The ACLU yesterday released a Pentagon memo it had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

"This unchecked surveillance is part of a broad pattern of the Bush administration using 'national security' as an excuse to run roughshod over the privacy and free-speech rights of Americans," Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU, said in a statement.

About 1,100 of about 13,000 entries, including the 186 antimilitary protests, were deleted from the database by February 2006 because they didn't contain a "foreign" element or present a "force protection threat," the memo said.

The memo is the latest in a series of documents the ACLU requested on behalf of antiwar and other groups around the country. Defense Department officials conducted a "complete review" of the reporting system in early 2006 to confirm the database would be used only for international terrorist activity, said Major Patrick Ryder, a department spokesman.

Reports that didn't meet the intent of the program were removed from the database, and procedures have been carried out to make sure that improper reports aren't included, Ryder said.

Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense at the time, created the department's Threat and Local Observation Notice database in 2003.

Civilians and military personnel reported suspicious activities or terrorist threats occurring near defense facilities, according to the ACLU. The Counterintelligence Field Activity Agency would then investigate the credibility of the alleged threats.

For instance, a protest entitled "Stop the War NOW!" was listed in the database in March 2005, described as a rally, march, and "Reading of Names of War Dead," according to the ACLU report.

In March 2006, Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense at the time, listed seven criteria that must be met before anything is added to the database "to clarify and reinforce" the department's policies, Ryder said.

Information from the database is available to about 28 organizations nationwide, or about 3,589 individuals, the memo said.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES