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Pentagon “Gay Terrorists Surveillance” Program Closed

A press Release today from SLDN says that the Pentagon’s ‘TALON’ (Threat and Local Observation Notices) program that tracked student groups including LGBT activists and labled them a credible threat has been discontinued. This program was discovered back in December 2006 by NBC and was reported by Pam Spaulding and John Arivosis. Below is the press release from SLDN

The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced plans to discontinue its controversial Threat and Local Observation Notices (TALON) surveillance program, launched in 2003 track and monitor domestic terror threats. The program came under intense scrutiny after news reports revealed officials were collecting data on demonstrators and protestors, including those within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In February 2006, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) filed a federal lawsuit seeking information related to surveillance of LGBT activists and student groups. Documentation released in April 2006 found extensive monitoring of students opposed to the military?s “Don’t Ask, Don?t Tell” law at New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

“The Pentagon’s surveillance program undermined the constitution and eroded Americans? privacy rights,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for SLDN. “The freedom to dissent and the right to voice that dissent are fundamental bedrocks of American democracy. Rather than wasting time and money peeping through keyholes, the government should strengthen our country’s defense by lifting the ban on open service and welcoming every qualified American to our armed forces.”

In December 2005, Lisa Myers and NBC News reported that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to protests at campuses across the country, including those organized to protest “Don?t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Among the demonstrations listed was a protest at New York University, coordinated with the law school’s LGBT advocacy group, OUTlaw, which was classified as “possibly violent” by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” demonstration, which included a kiss-in, was also labeled as a “credible threat” of terrorism.

James R. Clapper, Jr., undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters on Tuesday that he is moving to end the program. The Pentagon, Clapper said, “must lay to rest the distrust and concern about the department’s commitment to civil rights.” Clapper acknowledged problems with the TALON program, noting that, “The history of the intelligence community is replete with instances of abuse of civil liberties ? well intended, but abuse nonetheless.” He said it is “important that the proper balance be struck between the counterintelligence mission, on one hang, and the protection of civil liberties, on the other.”

The real winners of this, are LGBT citizens who belong to organizations like the ones described above who a) appreciate the freedoms guaranteed to every citizen to peaceably assemble and express their grievances, b) don’t want their privacy violated and c) may want to join the armed services sometime in the near future to serve their country. However, it’s doubtful that any of those students would join until the ban on LGBT citizens is lifted.

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