Pittsburgh's anti-military-recruitment activists are not surprised, but still disturbed, by an NBC News report that shows protesters' earliest activities caused the Department of Defense to label them a "threat."
The Dec. 13 NBC report revealed what the television network labeled "secret" documents, including a database of more than 40 anti-war and counter-recruitment actions, both planned and undertaken, that the government apparently investigated from November 2004 through April 2005. The database lists a Pittsburgh "incident" on April 27, 2005, in which, as the database puts it, "Group Targets US Military Recruiting" -- most likely referring to the April 26 protest by more than a dozen Pittsburgh Organizing Group members who blocked an Army Reserves recruiting table at Carnegie Mellon University with a banner reading "Resistance Is Fertile."
The database lists the incident's "Disposition" as "Open/Unresolved," and concludes "No Threat unitl [sic] actions are taken."
Department of Defense spokesperson Lt. Col. Tracy O'Grady-Walsh, responded to questions with an e-mailed statement: "We ... view with the greatest concern any potential violation of the strict DoD policy governing authorized counter-intelligence efforts and support to law enforcement," it said. It did not address the authenticity of NBC's documents, nor whether surveillance of the Pittsburgh counter-recruitment might have continued beyond April, or why it was deemed necessary.
POG member Alex Bradley, the de facto leader of local counter-recruitment protests that have increased in frequency since April, says he is "not personally concerned" about the surveillance, "but it's an erosion of civil liberties overall. It's a confirmation of what people thought might be happening. So in that sense it's disturbing."
Bradley says the group talked about the surveillance at its regular weekly protest in front of the Forbes Avenue military recruiting office in Oakland on Sat., Dec. 17, but he laughed at the notion that such oversight might affect the group's activities.
The National Lawyers Guild and the Partnership For Civil Justice law firm are now seeking more Pentagon surveillance records under the Freedom of Information Act.
David Meieran, another POG member, believes the surveillance of his group and others is related to recent revelations that the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans at the president's direction. "What I'd be interested to know is what the definition of 'threat' is," Meieran says concerning the label given to POG's efforts. "I'm not surprised at all that there is something like this. What is more disconcerting is what we don't know" -- including whether such surveillance has continued. "Are they scanning news reports or are they tasking an operative to the city to engage in monitoring ... or infiltration? This report preceded the real volume of work that not only Pittsburgh is doing but other cities as well."