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25 April 2006


Headquarters, U.S. Army 902nd
Military Intelligence Group and
TALON (Threat And Local Observation
Notice) counterterrorism program

One of Vleeptron's early posts recounted how the fiendish anti-American old hippie folksinger Cat Stevens attempted to invade the United States to sing "Peace Train" on an acoustic guitar again, but our ever-vigilant intelligence and counterterrorism network bagged him over the North Atlantic, forced his airliner down in Bangor, Maine, threw him and his daughter on the next plane back to Heathrow, and saved America from the threat of Peace breaking out among a new generation of easily misled and seduced American Youth, just like the last time Hippie Folksingers caused us to lose an important big war.

Sleep well again tonight, Americans! This time the United States Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group's vigilant TALON program has bagged some old mildy lefty anti-war peaceniks in Florida just before these sneaky geezers were about to ... uhhh ... make tofu! Or maybe do tai chi on the beach!

A brief foray into the seriousness of this business.

The Truth Project, Inc. goes to high schools to try to counter the influence of military recruiters by educating students about joining the military and the deceptive practices of military recruiters.

The Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind education "reform" act has a very interesting but little-known feature. In order for a public school district to qualify for federal NCLB funds, the school must provide military recruiters with the name, address and telephone number of every junior and senior student. No info to the military recruiters, no money -- and a school district which balks (almost none have) and Just Says No can lose hundreds of thousands of federal dollars per year.

~ ~ ~

The Palm Beach Post (Florida USA)
Monday 24 April 2006

E-mail landed Truth Project
on Pentagon's
'credible' threat list

by Tony Doris
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

LAKE WORTH, Florida -- With the zap of a single e-mail, a group of graying peaceniks known as The Truth Project was catapulted into the clutches of the mightiest military power on earth.

The group and its activities -- mostly handing out leaflets at local high schools and meeting at Lake Worth's Quaker Meeting House -- were branded a "credible" potential threat by the Pentagon, its existence posted in a secret electronic gallery of suspected terrorists.

The Pentagon has since apologized -- but why The Truth Project's two dozen or so middle-age members were considered a credible threat has remained a mystery. Unlike other, more visible protest groups, they worked within government channels -- politely requesting Palm Beach County school system permission to spread their message on campus.

The military now says The Truth Project was brought to the Pentagon's attention by a "concerned citizen" who dispatched an e-mail on Nov. 13, 2004. While not offering specifics, Commander Gregory Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman, said the e-mail "probably" was forwarded to federal authorities by a local police agency.

Wherever it came from, the e-mail ended up with the FBI and then the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group -- the Defense Department's biggest, most comprehensive counterespionage unit. Based at Fort Meade, Md., and with agents in Orlando and Miami, the intelligence group's main mission is protecting military bases from infiltration.

It also enforces a little-used federal law that makes it a crime to obstruct military recruitment during times of war. Maximum penalty: 20 years in prison.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, the 902nd focused on protecting bases overseas. After the attacks, its anti-terror mission expanded to U.S. soil.

Like other counterespionage groups, it keeps tabs on potential threats across the nation, downloading the information into a database called TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice), accessible to law-enforcement agencies responsible for homeland security.

Late last year, some of the electronic watch list was obtained by an NBC News team. The contents kicked a tripwire of public outrage. The rag-tag Truth Project, along with a handful of other once-obscure pacifist groups listed in the TALON database, were thrust into the still-raging national debate over domestic spying authorized by the Bush administration.

The truth group's leader, who participated in anti-Vietnam War sit-ins as a youth, ended up testifying in Washington before a Democratic congressional panel in January.

The ensuing political storm prompted the Pentagon to purge its electronic databases of groups such as The Truth Project.

"I'm all for the administration having all the powers necessary to fight terror," said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Boca Raton Democrat who participated in hearings on the issue. "But they don't have unbridled authority to spy on Americans that had nothing whatsoever to do with terror."

Fighting terrorism while respecting individual rights is a difficult balance, said U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, a Fort Lauderdale Republican whose district includes a slice of Palm Beach County.

"As we increase our security, some of our civil rights have to be given up," Shaw said. "One of the reasons we're so vulnerable is we have such an open society. It's a close call, but the bottom line is that our law enforcers and our prosecutors have to use good judgment and respect the rights of individuals."

The Truth Project is headed by Rich Hersh of Boca Raton, a former writing professor at Florida Atlantic University who spent the better part of his 59 years acting on causes from napalm to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

His graying hair shows how long it's been since he and fellow protesters took over the administration building at the University of Florida to protest the Vietnam War.

"A lot of us thought, with Nixon out, we'd achieved major victories," he said. "But the stuff just went underground."

His latest project was inspired by his daughter, Darcy, who came home excited after talking with U.S. Marine recruiters at her high school about a career flying fighter jets.

Hersh said he believed the recruiter hadn't given his daughter the whole story. He also was troubled to learn, from subsequent research, that the recruiters were allowed to collect student addresses and phone numbers from the schools.

Hersh and his group asked school district officials -- in polite letters, calls and in scheduled appointments -- for permission to present alternative viewpoints and distribute "opt-out" forms to help students keep their personal information from recruiters.

"We don't go in and dis the Army or the Navy," Hersh said. "We just ask kids to think for themselves."

The group provided school lawyers with case law documenting its right to do so. During a period of months, at the superintendent's request, they met with principals of 21 high schools to explain their effort and to promise not to interfere with military recruiters.

The talks were cordial, school concerns were addressed and permission was granted and memorialized in revisions to the district policy bulletin, Hersh said.

But even before the group unfolded its first table at a high school, its existence had been posted on the TALON database. Truth Project members learned that from an NBC News producer in November 2005.

The data entry indicated that someone attended one of their meetings and reported the group to the government. That news prompted recollections that their November 2004 meeting was attended by a muscular man with a blond crew cut who no one saw before or since. He said he was a nursing student.

"There is no such thing as privacy anymore; there is secrecy," Hersh said.

TALON is made for speed, not painstaking verification. The concept is to rush raw data to anti-terror analysts so they can rocket through it for patterns and connections.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who ushered the database into anti-terror use, explained it this way in 2003: "TALON reports are raw, non-validated information which may or may not be related to an actual threat, and by their very nature may be fragmented or incomplete."

The Pentagon armed TALON with guidelines meant to protect civil liberties. In addition to time limits on holding such data, regulations require that "No information shall be acquired about a person or organization solely because of lawful advocacy of measures in opposition to Government policy."

A Pentagon review this year found that TALON should be used "only to report information regarding possible international terrorist activity."

Defense officials hail TALON as a vital tool that has proven itself. "It has detected international terrorist interest in specific military bases and has led to and supported counterterrorism investigations," Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England wrote in a memo to top Defense officials March 30.

The TALON controversy exploded at a time when confidence in the president's handling of the Iraq war was plunging and anger at government intrusion at home was growing.

"Those law-abiding Americans with a different philosophy from the administration found themselves on the receiving end of a spying and surveillance effort by the U.S. Department of Defense," Rep. Wexler said. "If that doesn't make your blood run cold, I don't know what would, as an American."

Said Rep. Shaw: "The first responsibility of federal government is to protect security in our towns and homes. I expect them to do their job -- and I expect them to do their job with absolute minimal interference with civil rights."

Fla. Senator writes Rumsfeld

On Jan. 20, Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the issue. Pointed inquiries also came from such Democratic legislators as Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson. "The military's apparent expansion of domestic intelligence gathering could lead to unprecedented invasions of the privacy of lawful citizens simply for exercising their right of free speech," Nelson wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

At the congressional hearing, Defense officials conceded that none of the Truth Project's members had known ties to Afghanistan, Pakistan or any other terrorist-training hotbeds. Most didn't have passports and had never been abroad. There was one exception: a St. Petersburg resident they trained was a veteran of the Korean War.

"At that time, none of us had even made a phone call outside the country, except perhaps to Canada," Hersh said.

Defense officials defended TALON's importance, but agreed to purge 43 listings it found violated the department's own regulations meant to protect civil rights.

"Of all the reports reviewed, less than 2 percent were later removed for various reasons," Pentagon spokesman Hicks said. "I don't know about The Truth Project one you're talking about, but if it did not have a foreign terrorist threat nexus, which from what you say it should not, it has been removed."

In any event, the TALON controversy helped the Truth Project's cause. Its members have traveled to several other Florida counties, as far as Hillsborough and Pinellas, to teach their methods.

After the news broke, they got calls from groups as far away as New York, Pennsylvania and Washington state, asking for advice.

Hersh doesn't dismiss the importance of preventing violence, but says fearful memories of Sept. 11 have enabled the government to compromise individual freedoms.

"As long as we have that dramatic image that we can cling to, we don't have to really think about what's going on here," he said. "It's important to find out about these guys, but shouldn't the fact that you're looking in a Quaker friends meeting house suggest that you might be looking in the wrong place?"

- 30 -

* * * * * * *

Judiciary Democratic Congressional Briefing
"Constitution in Crisis:
Domestic Surveillance and Executive Power"
January 20, 2006

Congressmen Conyers, Scott and Van Hollen
hosted a Congressional Briefing on
the "Constitution in Crisis:
Domestic Surveillance and Executive Power."


Good morning, CONGRESSMAN CONYERS and OTHER ESTEEMED MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE : My name is Richard Hersh. I am a 59 year-old male with a painful neurological condition that severely limits my physical abilities. I have traveled from Florida to Washington to advise you of the enormous amount of surveillance and disruption of peaceful groups by agents of the Bush Administration.

In November of 2004, people who represented an association of religious, educational, environmental, peace and social justice activists met at the Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Florida. This group formed The Truth Project, Inc., a Florida non-profit corporation whose purpose is to help educate high school students and their parents about military service and to give them enough accurate information to make informed choices about critical decisions. As a group we are various ages, sexes, ethnicities, creeds and political philosophies, but we are all proud Americans.

The Quakers welcomed us into their church, because they believed our intent was non-violent and was in keeping with their deeply-felt beliefs of teaching peace and understanding. They knew our purpose was solely to exercise our First Amendment Rights to assemble peacefully, speak freely, and worship as we choose.

We had no idea until one year later that the unfamiliar faces in the church had been sent by the President ’s Department of Defense to spy on us; NBC News investigators showed us that agents of the 902nd Military Intelligence Group from Fort Meade, MD, where the National Security Agency is headquartered, infiltrated the Quaker Meeting House, and then filed a report designating us a CREDIBLE THREAT. The president ’s agents DID NOT come to worship alongside us, to help us plan our educational program, or to protect us.

And it wasn ’t just us. Shortly after NBC aired its report, churches and other groups began sharing their experiences of infiltration and intimidation with us. Saint Maurice’s Catholic Church in Dania, the Unitarian Universalists, the Fort Lauderdale Friends, members of Pax Christi in West Palm Beach, environmental groups, and many others.

Agents rummaged through trash, attacked and snooped into email, hacked web sites, and listened in on phone conversations. Indeed, address books and activist meeting lists have disappeared.

President Bush tells us only a few phone calls are listened to, but THAT ’S NOT TRUE.

Mr. Bush says they only monitor calls to foreign countries, but THAT is ABSOLUTELY untrue.

He tells us that he spies only on known Al-Qaida contacts or affiliates, but I know for a fact that is NOT TRUE, because I was spied on in a house of worship IN THE UNITED STATES, and in private homes in Florida where I was meeting with other peaceful persons engaged in constitutionally-protected activity.

I HAVE EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE that the federal government listens to my phone calls to family members and friends about purely personal matters.

I have every reason to believe that the president ’s agents READ my e-mail, PHOTOGRAPH me as I exercise my Constitutional Rights, RECORD the license numbers of cars I ride in, and CREATE huge databases with information about me and my fellow activists, BECAUSE all of this specific activity is on record, from government files, as having been visited on American citizens, around the United States, by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI, the NSA and other agencies.

If as George Orwell once said, "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act," we members of the Truth Project, Inc., must be revolutionaries. I thought Congress passed safeguards against indiscriminate domestic spying after the gross violations of citizens’ rights during the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam peace activism. But here we are again. Like the Church Committee. Today, I think President Bush should confess the true extent of his domestic spying program. Confession is good for the soul. I think HE should tell the truth. That truth shall set us all free.


Blogger Jim Olson said...

Criminals all.

White is black, up is down. Reality is only as the government wishes you to perceive it. Lies are repeated as truth until their truthiness is apparent.

I want my America back.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

I don't know if you invented the word "truthiness," but I like it and I recommend you get it copyrighted immediately.

All corruption begins with corruption of the language. After World War II, a group of young German writers formed Gruppe 47 and took upon themselves the tast of restoring the German language to an intrument capable of expressing truth and clarity, rather than the corrupt, grotesque and degenerate language best suited for lying and deception which the Nazis had intentionally turned it into. At least two members of Gruppe 47 that I know of, Grass and Boll, won the Nobel Literature Prize.

Special PizzaQ! Identify the following passage. (Hint: It's a translation of something in your professional literature.)

"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."

Blogger Jim Olson said...

Right! Orwell...Politics and the English Language in the mid-1940s some time. Its a BS version of Ecclesiastes..."...the race is not always to the swift.." etc.

Had to read this essay in high school. I'll accept the two slices of pizza, but only if you come buy them for me here in Boston!

Blogger Jim Olson said...

Just looked it up, because now it bothered me. Ecclesiastes 9:11

"Again, I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to the skillful; but time and chance can happen to them all."

Oh, and I didn't create the word "truthiness", though I wish I had.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

You know I'm a sucker for the KJV:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.


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