Names of peaceful protestors added to database of suspected terrorists.

“If you’re not doing anything wrong then you don’t have anything to fear.” That’s the argument most often used by defenders of Bush’s secret domestic spying programs and too often it works because it sounds very reasonable. The problem, of course, is that the government is made up of individuals who sometimes have their own personal agendas or, more often, are just fucking incompetent. Thus it’s usually a good idea to have transparency in as much of the government as possible, especially when doing things such as amassing information on potential suspects in the War!On!Terror!.

Otherwise you end up with situations like this one where students who engaged in peaceful demonstrations opposing military recruiters at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz ended up in a database that’s supposed to be used for tracking foreign terrorism:

The students were angry when they turned up in the database of a Pentagon program called Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, which the government started in 2003 as a way to collect data that could help stop terrorist attacks. Officials have acknowledged that the reports on protests should not have been included.

In the Santa Cruz and Berkeley reports, the source of information was listed as an agent for Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. The reports were filed by the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, the Army’s largest counterespionage unit.

“This raises questions about whether the Department of Homeland Security tasked somebody to gather information about anti-war activities,” said Mark Schlosberg, police practices policy director for the ACLU’s Northern California office.

The ACLU managed to find out about the additions via a request under the Freedom of Information Act, but that act doesn’t apply to all government programs and it’s always difficult to question programs you don’t know about because they’ve been kept secret. The Bush Administration’s argument that leaks about the secret domestic wiretap program and the SWIFT banking checks have damaged the utility of critical tools in the fight against terrorism is utter bullshit. Does the Administration really think there are terrorists out there who are dumb enough not to assume that the U.S. would be tapping phones like crazy or looking into any electronic monetary transactions they engaged in? Which isn’t to say that wiretaps and checking SWIFT isn’t a good idea as there are likely to be situations where the terrorists have no choice but to use those methods, but it’s idiotic to think that keeping it secret is going to fool the terrorists into a false sense of security.

What keeping it secret does do is protect the administration from the fallout when the inevitable abuses—intentional or accidental—do occur. “Just trust us” isn’t a good argument as past history has shown many times before.

5 thoughts on “Names of peaceful protestors added to database of suspected terrorists.

  1. Which isn’t to say that wiretaps and checking SWIFT isn’t a good idea

    They are a very bad idea – quantity and quality are different things and investigators are pulled off real cases involving e.g. child abuse to chase wild geese.

  2. Les: If you’re not doing anything wrong then you don’t have anything to fear

    Yeah, right.
    Coupla three months ago we had one of your yank boys over here and he was deported coz he was deemed … well ‘they’ never really said what the fuck he was deemed guilty of (by association?).
    He sounded pretty innocent to me.
    Apparently he was a ‘known demonstrator’ whatever the hell that means.
    What pissed me off is that they couldn’t paint him any worse than just a benign colour.
    Like, if he’d been a murdering bastard, they’d have said so, I’m sure, but no known violence was ever attached to him.
    I heard on the news today (I can’t find anything yet) that he’s trying to access through ‘freedom of information’ what exactly is on his ASIO file.
    If I remember I’ll keep abreast of it.

  3. Like I’ve been saying all along his Unroyal Assholines and Co are building their own Third Reich.
    At least they’ve gotten really good hold from how things were in DDR.
    (no, not Double Data Rate but Deutsche Demokratische Republik)

    Sounds familiar?
    Should be because JMS took ideas to that directly from WW2 tyrannies.

  4. Me: If I remember I’ll keep abreast of it.

    I could have done what I just did at the time but, being an older person, the programme of going to the net for my info doesn’t always immediately click in.
    [Tan gently digressing – I was round at my mate’s place this evening, drinking beer around a fire (remember it’s winter) discussing cooking and, ghee came up. I said how it’s made by melting butter and straining it through a cloth.
    Then what’s that other whitish stuff?
    I had to mumble the Little Miss Muffett nursery rhyme to get to the word ‘whey’ cos I couldn’t remember the word.
    Everyone laughed at John but, no one else was able to answer Susan’s question.]
    Back to Scott Parkin. Crikey has a bit about him as does ABC which is our National free to air broadcaster. It’s often seen as a bit left-ish but when the ‘left’ was in power they didn’t find them unbiased enough either. Probably coz they always ask the ‘hard’ questions that the commercial (ad driven) channels don’t or can’t because they try to appeal to the apathetic, dummed down masses.
    Anyway, there’s no real up-date on Scott’s position other than he’s wanting some info regarding his deportation.
    What I reckon happened is that one of the Bush-lickers (isn’t that a good pun on arse-lickers and … nah … most women get their bush trimmed these days) called up our Fuhrer, said Scotty was a prick and, Voila! Scotty was pissed off. There was a pun there too but only if you know that ‘pissed off’ in Oz can also mean … I pissed off from my mate’s place a coupla hours ago = I left his place a coupla hours ago.
    I know I should stop beering drink , but … I like it. LOL

  5. Well, one of my friends managed to get a student visa to study for a Masters Degree in New York, despite being arrested in the UK during an anti-war demonstration outside a US surveillance base here in Britain. Which was surprising to say the least, especially consdering this.

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