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Legislator Makes New Allegations of
Spying on Citizens by National Guard

EDWIN GARCIA / Contra Costa County Times 1mar2006

 

SACRAMENTO A special California National Guard unit that was disbanded last year amid suspicion it was engaged in domestic spying may have been part of a nationwide effort to monitor the activities of U.S. citizens, a state senator charged Tuesday.

Internal National Guard documents seem to suggest, according to Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, that Guard units in nine other states may have had similar spying initiatives when California's unit became public last summer.

"Because they were all created at about the same time and to the best of our knowledge thus far seemingly engaged in similar activity, including domestic surveillance activities," he said, "we could only conclude that it had been part of a concentrated or coordinated effort to create such units around the country."

Jon Siepmann, a Guard spokesman, denied the allegations and said that three independent investigations cleared the California National Guard's Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion unit. He also denied that the program ever conducted surveillance on American citizens. Officials at the National Guard Bureau in Washington did not return telephone messages and e-mails.

The unit formed in California, first disclosed by the Times Sacramento Bureau in an article in June, had been given "broad authority" to monitor, analyze and distribute information on potential terrorist threats. Top Guard officials, the Bureau learned back then, were involved in tracking a small Mother's Day anti-war rally organized by families of slain American soldiers.

Rally participants including Gold Star Families for Peace, Raging Grannies and CodePink were outraged when they learned a newly formed Guard unit monitored the group. So was Dunn, who was chairman of a budget committee that oversaw the Guard and launched investigations into the alleged domestic spying.

Capt. Robert Bell, a spokesman for the Colorado National Guard, which Dunn identified as one of the states with a spying unit, said the senator's allegation sounded off base to him. "Nobody, nobody in the Guard wants to do something that is illegal," Bell said.

The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act bars the U.S. military from domestic law enforcement unless responding to specific circumstances. But no such law exists for Guard troops in California.

Dunn and Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, introduced legislation last week that would bar members of the Guard from engaging in domestic spying unless authorized by law.

"We have to close the loopholes so that our military personnel do not engage in unauthorized police activity, domestically, including spying," Dunn said at a news conference Tuesday, during which he also disclosed the information contained in the Guard documents he obtained through a subpoena last year.

The document obtained by Dunn includes a two-page memorandum from the National Guard Bureau, which coordinates Guard activities across the country. Dunn said the memo, with a subject line, "Existing 'Fusion Center' concepts in the States and Territories," acknowledged the presence of such centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

The memo, written by Robert Jennings of the National Guard Bureau, includes a line about how policies should include a thorough legal review "to maintain the strict separation between federal and state missions."

Dunn interpreted the statement as the National Guard's admission to walking a fine line between the legality of domestic spying on the state and national level.

Siepmann, of the California National Guard, said fusion refers to government agencies sharing information since Sept. 11, 2001, to respond to crimes.

Allegations of domestic spying, whether by Guard troops or through the use of controversial wiretaps under the Bush administration, have rankled civil libertarians since the 1960s, when the military gathered information on at least 100,000 Americans.

The California unit was quietly dismantled by the Guard's new leadership in November, bringing a sigh of relief to the anti-war groups -- until they learned of the latest developments from Dunn.

In addition to pushing for anti-spying legislation, and revealing the contents of the Guard memo, Dunn also called for the creation of a Joint Intelligence Committee. The committee, he said, is needed to provide oversight over taxpayer funds used for intelligence activities.

source: http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/13988285.htm 1mar2006

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