Pentagon fesses up to 800 pages' worth of potentially illegal spying, including peace groups and Planned Parenthood

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has forced the Pentagon to release over 800 pages of classified material documenting "possibly illegal" spying during the Bush administration. The heavily redacted documents include details of a spying program against Planned Parenthood and white supremacist groups in the runup to the Atlanta Olympics, as well as spying on Alaskans for Peace and Justice, an anti-recruiting group, civilian cell phone conversations, and other breaches of spying laws.

The rubric of spying is that it needs to take place to stop people who are acting illegally or may act illegally. When spies break the law, they commit the infraction that they claim to have dedicated themselves to preventing.

Pertaining to the Planned Parenthood members, for example, the oversight report provides no explanation about how the information was collected. Nor does it indicate why the information was collected and notes only that military intelligence is not allowed to collect and disseminate information on U.S. persons unless the information constitutes "foreign intelligence." The report indicates that the collection was therefore "clearly outside the purview of military intelligence" and should have been handled by law enforcement.

Another oversight document discusses an incident involving the interception of civilian cellphone conversations of U.S. persons in April 2007. During a field exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana, a Signals Intelligence noncommissioned officer operating a SIGINT collection system intercepted the cell phone calls, though the document doesn't indicate if they were intercepted on U.S. soil or outside U.S. borders.

Initial reports indicated that the officer listened to the conversations for entertainment purposes, and the incident was reported to the National Security Agency. But the inspector-general document indicates that the officer never admitted to this and indicates only that he may have listened to some conversations "longer than necessary to do his job."

Military Monitored Planned Parenthood, Supremacists

Pentagon Discloses Hundreds of Reports of Possibly Illegal Intelligence Activities

(Image: Planned Parenthood Fan Page Profile Photo, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from cambodia4kidsorg's photostream)

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  1. “The rubric of spying is that it needs to take place to stop people who are acting illegally or may act illegally.”

    If spying is considered a military activity- the way it’s been for most recorded history- then any set of laws is really sort of irrelevant. Military units don’t act according to law, they act according to their orders.

    It’s only when civilian units are doing the spying, that the law can come into play in any practical sense. All the military has to do is say, “national security” and the law just stops in its tracks.

    1. In the USA (and throughout the West) the military is under strict civilian control.
      So all “military decisions” are in fact decisions by civilians: so – no “free pass on spying” due to the assigned or appointed status of the spies. Who made them military? Oh yeah the elected politicians….are they above the Law, too?

  2. What amazes me isn’t that the Bush administration broke the law on a massive scale, but that so few people, to this day, care that it happened at all. Americans have seen their rights and freedoms erode before their very eyes and almost none of them seem to care. I’d be willing to bet that these documents could have the redacting removed and we would still see only a tiny minority of Americans show any interest.

    1. To paraphrase another hated man, Josef Goebbels; “The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”

      The a government is usually elected under a banner of “for the public good” and like clock work, after the election, the new administration goes about its business fulfilling its own agenda regardless of “public good.” As a public body, Americans are sociopaths; we go through the same motions every 4 years, electing a president and each time we expect a new result. This time he/she won’t lie to us. This time they will pass health care. This time they will all keep their promises. Its ok I’m loosing my rights, just as long as we beat those terrorists! Its all bullshit. We lie to ourselves to make it through each day, so whats the big deal if our leaders fudge the truth? Who cares if the police and military abuse thier powers, just as long as I can get my fast food for dinner each night; waste away in front of my 9000″ widescreen LCD-plasma-projection-LED back lit TV with 5.1 stereo surround sound watching mindless drivel.

  3. I think your first paragraph up there should read “Salt Lake City Olympics”, not Atlanta. (The Atlanta Olympics were in ’96.)

  4. Oh yes: “national security” often really means “the politicians’ bank accounts”.
    Kick-backs and graft, corruption in Government supply contracting: why are the spies not working on those problems?

  5. And of course your Government and its spies may – nay must – know all and everything about you without exception: but you may know nothing AT ALL about them: because that would “impair their effectiveness”. Thus, their activities may – nay must – be kept secret. From you, at any rate.

    Feel more secure now?

  6. As the Supreme Court’s “implied right to privacy”grounded the decision to allow abortions in limited circumstances, in the Roe v Wade case, the resistance in America to any legally recognized right to privacy is very very strong.
    They have the anti-abortion lobby behind them: a right to privacy would end the “abortion debate” in favor of Planned Parenthood’s position.

    So those who wish to establish privacy rights in the USA have a larger battle than they may anticipate on their hands: they have to take on the “criminalize all abortions” people.

    How such a free country can be so “anti-privacy” is a complex question. That abortion angle is often overlooked, IMHO.
    That parents are “anti-privacy” when it comes to their children may or may not he a surprise, depending upon your world-view, I guess. But eventually, the kids grow up, an are free to leave.

  7. Let me take a guess, the evangelists who have infiltrated the military wanted to harass Planned Parenthood? We all know the danger to national security posed by birth control and pregnancy consultation.

    Funny how people who supported Bush and go on about how bad big government is and how everyone should pack a gun would support spying on Americans.

  8. I’m most surprised it’s only 800 pages. Let’s assume that the 800 pages is stuff that shouldn’t be done. If that’s the entire batch of documents, it’s a pretty small pile.

    For perspective, think of one documented activity in you life. Now collect every document (paper and electronic) related to it over a 15 year period. The stack gets pretty thick pretty fast.

    Now compare this to an organization with millions of people. Some fraction of that must be idiots, jerks, etc. Either ignorant of the law or not caring. Yet somehow idiocy was constrained enough to only produce 800 pages.

    So hats off to a military that kept its shit together enough to only screw up this much. Now learn from the mistakes of idiots and do better.

  9. China is the model that Western governments are bent on emulating, now and in the future. Authoritarian, censoring, controlling, capitalist.

    It’s what unfettered power tends to create in humans, it seems.

  10. “The heavily redacted documents include details of a spying program against Planned Parenthood…”

    “Pertaining to the Planned Parenthood members, for example, the oversight report provides no explanation about how the information was collected. Nor does it indicate why the information was collected and notes only that military intelligence is not allowed to collect and disseminate information on U.S. persons unless the information constitutes “foreign intelligence.” The report indicates that the collection was therefore “clearly outside the purview of military intelligence” and should have been handled by law enforcement.”

    Not to be paranoid or anything, but I wonder if any of the systematic “spying program” on a legitimate American organization by our government targeted PP doctors or other staff members, who were then harmed or killed by domestic terrorists?

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