DOD admits 'inappropriate' info collected

Feb. 7, 2006 at 2:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The Pentagon admitted in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee it has "inappropriately" collected information on anti-war protestors, according to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Levin said Tuesday the Defense Department has issued an interim report on its TALON domestic surveillance reporting program, which was created in 2003 to collect information relating to possible foreign terrorist threats to defense personnel and facilities.

"A small percent of reports were submitted that inappropriately dealt with demonstrations and anti-war activity rather than foreign terrorist threats, and ...DOD will soon conclude its review of the program to determine precisely what needs to be done to correct its flaws," Levin stated at a Armed Services Committee hearing.

NBC News reported in December that a sample of about 1,500 "suspicious incidents" listed in the Talon database included four dozen anti-war meetings or protests. The Pentagon announced in December it would review the program.

According to an Oct. 2005 Defense Department directive, Talon reports contain "formatted, non-validated threat information."

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network have filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act for TALON reports on anti-war organizations and the gay rights advocacy group.

In the 1970s Congress placed strict limits on the military programs that collected information on Americans, when during the Vietnam war it was revealed some defense officials were spying on anti-war groups.

The Talon database comprises threat information reported by military and civilians who come across what they believe to be suspicious activity or people who could pose a terrorist threat to Defense Department personnel or property. The information is entered into a three-year old database. According to the Pentagon, unvalidated information is supposed to be expunged from the database after 90 days.

A similar program that encouraged civilians to report suspicious or possible terrorist activity to the Justice Department was scuttled because of privacy objections in 2002.

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