They're Praying for Peace! Get 'Em!

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Boy, it's nice to know that our domestic intelligence superstars are keepin' on top of the Quakers.

An antiterrorist database used by the Defense Department in an effort to prevent attacks against military installations included intelligence tips about antiwar planning meetings held at churches, libraries, college campuses and other locations, newly disclosed documents show.

One tip in the database in February 2005, for instance, noted that "a church service for peace" would be held in the New York City area the next month. Another entry noted that antiwar protesters would be holding "nonviolence training" sessions at unidentified churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Seriously, this is stupid enough to make one long for Gov. Goodhair of Massachusetts' cunning plan to wiretap mosques. The idea that anti-war activists could be a threat to national security is a musty holdover from the Vietnam era, when a hard left that wanted to terrorize elements of American society actually existed.

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  1. On the face of it, it seems dumb. But there have been a few cases of pacifist peace activists damaging government property by defacing buildings or vandalizing military hardware. Don’t know if that’s what’s involved here.

    And is it really “intelligence” for the government to keep track of meetings which are open to the public? Browsing the coffeeshop wall doesn’t seem to require that much spy craft.

  2. “Abdul,” (If that is your real name),

    There have been a few cases of pacifist peace activists exceeding the speed limit as well. Would you recommend using intelligence and counter-terror resources to man speed traps?

    And yes, gathering information from the public domain certainly is intelligence work. The CIA and KGB did a great deal of this.

  3. ut there have been a few cases of pacifist peace activists damaging government property by defacing buildings or vandalizing military hardware.

    Carl Kabat, a Catholic priest, was just sentenced for vandalizing a missile site while dressed as a clown.

    That was more pathetic than a real threat, but another guy (who’s names escapes me) was arrested breaking into Vandenberg AFB, after declaring his intent to vandalize a radar installation.

    Most of these people are harmless, but that doesn’t mean it’s silly to acknowledge their existence. You don’t know until you take a cursory glance.

  4. anti-war activists are definitely a threat to…well….

    well, not war, at least.

    Maybe they’re a serious threat to any possibility of coherency of the left.

  5. If this is just entering tips in a database, then it’s not particularly silly.

    If they had looked at the tip and sent an agent in to infiltrate the quakers then it would be.

    I would think that they enter every tip they get, then triage them from there.

  6. Well, International ANSWER is run by the WWP, so I guess they’re probably bad people. But Quakers and Mennonites? Umm, yeah, waste of resources fellas.

  7. It’s not a just a waste of resources; it’s indicative of a mindset among our security apparatus that political dissent, even if entirely distinct ideologically and operationally from any terror threat, is itself harmful to our nation’a security.

  8. This is kind of ironic since Richard Nixon was a Quaker.

  9. This is kind of ironic since Richard Nixon was a Quaker.

    Much to the embarassment of the Quakers I know.

    Actually his mother was a Quaker but he never seriously observed the religion.

    When his daughters visited Australia with him in the 50s the Quakers there were taken by the fact that they had never heard of the Peace Testimony, which is a pretty big part of the religion as it is generally practiced. However thos California Quakers are different I think.

    Nixon also served in the Navy in WWII. But then the “good war” tested the beliefs of a lot of good Quakers and many served.

  10. it’s indicative of a mindset among our security apparatus that political dissent, even if entirely distinct ideologically and operationally from any terror threat, is itself harmful to our nation’a security.

    I don’t think that’s a new development, pathetic as it is.

  11. Actually, I think it’s pretty funny that there are people out there who believe that there is “a mindset among our security apparatus that political dissent, even if entirely distinct ideologically and operationally from any terror threat, is itself harmful to our nation’a security.”

    Granted, there are always people in positions of authority who are stupid, do stupid things, or who manage to generally rise to the occasion by virtue of their complete incompetence. But this the U.S. in 2006, not the U.S. in J. Edgar Hoover’s era.

  12. rob,

    How many links showing local, state, and federal police and intelligence agencies treating pacifist groups as terror threats before the idea stopped being funny, and you ceased to treat this as a series of discreet, unusual over-reactions by idividual officials?

    Ten? Twenty? Fifty?

    I could find fifty cases, no problem.

  13. When I was in the navy, there were often warnings of protestors trying to board submarines in port. Our CO’s response was that if a protestor managed to board, just warn him about places where he might get hurt. He reasoned that the protestors really hadn’t thought about what they would do if they were successful in their attempts to board. In addition, upon boarding, a protestor would be surrounded by a lot of steel that is pretty hard for them to damage.

  14. “Abdul,” (If that is your real name),

    Wait a minute, you use your real name on the inter-web?

    Don’t you know that the Defense Department reads these things?

  15. I wholeheartedly agree with joe. It’s getting to where those in power fear and desire to supress any form of dissent, be it physical or merely intellectual or philosophical. We’d be fools to ignore the signs. “First they came for the Quakers…”

  16. joe – What are you calling “treating as a terror threat”? Nobody’s shown that the Defense Department seriously thought these people were a “terror threat”, only that they kept some notes on them. While I agree with you that this program is stupid, keeping notes on the (public!) activities of groups hardly rises to the level of the Gestapo. If keeping notes on them is an “overreaction”, it’s a pretty small one. Your contrarian nature is leading you to be more trollish than your wont in this thread. Give it a rest.

  17. The Quakers are trying to lull us into a sense of complacancy and then, bam! Open your eyes people!

    What’s needed to wake the slumbering sheeple is a catchy name like “islamofascist”.

    I propose “quakokamikazinazi”.

  18. I’m going to play devils advocate here.

    Any large gathering could be a potential terrorist target. Therefore, these gatherings should be monitored to prevent them from being a target, or at least in an attempt to spot terrorist that might attempt gathering intel on the event for future attacks. Just keeping them safe

    Any takers on that approach? lol.

    I think we all know the deal, power wants power, knowledge is power. power wants knowledge. Every little nugget of information they can bank, gives them a little more power over our lives.

    The question I like to throw around is, in a free society, how much information should the government gather, store, on its citizens?

    Most that support the government efforts have an out of bounds line themselves, even though they may not seem like it. I think we serve the debate better by trying to make people acknowledge what the line in our society should be. This applies to government and business information collection.

    “””Nobody’s shown that the Defense Department seriously thought these people were a “terror threat”, only that they kept some notes on them.”””

    JD the fact they the DoD spent time, money, and resources to do the task says they had some level of concern, otherwise why do it.

    “””While I agree with you that this program is stupid, keeping notes on the (public!) activities of groups hardly rises to the level of the Gestapo. “”””

    No the Gestapo would never do this, nor would they have been interested in aquiring a database on the citizens if such thing existed back then. Nor would they place infants and children on a no-fly list. Sure I can acknowledge do a couple of Gestapo things does not meet the level of Gestapo in its totality. The Gestapo gets out of bed and put on their footware, we all do, that doesn’t make us Gestapo. So the question I have is how many Gestapo tactics must be in effect before we should acknowledge it as Gestapo. Of course the Gestapo does not have a monopoly on citizen oppression.

    Should we acknowledge anything that puts us a slippery slope and question it, or should we just buy ice skates.

  19. “””Sure I can acknowledge do a couple of Gestapo things does not meet the level of Gestapo in its totality.”””

    this line should say, I can acknowledge doing a couple of…

    Sorry.

  20. The senior military officers I have met have been thoughtful and fully appreciative of the need for dissent as part of a healthy democracy. They might “take a look” at an anti-war group as part of SOP threat evaluation, but would not regard dissent as disloyalty.

    The few military officers I’ve known who regarded dissenters as traitors never made it past Army Captain rank.

    [Before anyone mentions Oliver North, I say I never met the man.]

  21. The FBI had an informant in the Libertarian National Committee during the 1980s (based on heavily censored documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act). And conservative groups were watched and documented in the late 60s by big city police “civil affairs” units.
    One of these cops told me that they knew such groups were o.k. but that they were looking for odd-balls who were becoming impatient with the mainstream leadership…those they would watch closely. Gee, in various libertarian blogs do we ever get nutjobs who might advocate turning to violence? It is probably the same in pacifist organizations too.
    So what are the proper rules of engagement for
    intelligence organizations to find and identify those who might be drifting towards violence, commercial sabotage, and the like?
    How does one identify those most likely to want to burn down the local Wal-Mart, for instance?

  22. Creech,

    It might well make sense to build enough of a working relationship with the leadership of a Quaker pacifist group that the lines of communication would be open should such an “oddball” come to the attention of the group members.

    But that’s not what happened here. This was about the members of the group themselves being treated as potential threats.

  23. This doesn’t say that they did any surveilance, just that they recieved and logged a tip.

  24. “How many links showing local, state, and federal police and intelligence agencies treating pacifist groups as terror threats before the idea stopped being funny, and you ceased to treat this as a series of discreet, unusual over-reactions by idividual officials?” – joe

    When they actually start to infringe on people’s civil rights, give me a holler. In the mean time, you’re starting to sound pretty shrill, or “nancy,” as you like to call it.

    “This was about the members of the group themselves being treated as potential threats.” – joe

    Really? I didn’t get that from reading the post. I got that they were listed in a database as an “antiwar” group holding meetings – not that they were listed as an active threat of any kind.

    Odd as this sounds, occasionally, anti-war groups get people who aren’t pacifists. Kind of like Timothy McVeigh’s take on the perfidy of gov’t action at Waco & Ruby Ridge would sound similar to some of the posts on HNR – even tho force is not something condoned by the general libertarian POV.

    “The idea that anti-war activists could be a threat to national security is a musty holdover from the Vietnam era” – Dave Weigel

    Yeah, and environmental & animal rights extremists would never actually conduct any sort of vandalism or do anything that could actually cause serious property damage or bodily injury/death.

    Look, I’m all for limiting state power in regards to infringing on the rights of U.S. citizens, but this just doesn’t seem to measure up. I’ll reserve my outrage for actual cops actually kicking people’s doors in, or otherwise playing the heavy, and you’ll have to excuse my lack of outrage over a couple of entries in a DoD database intended to keep tabs on people who might attempt to infiltrate U.S. military bases and get up to all kinds of vandalism, etc.

  25. “When they actually start to infringe on people’s civil rights, give me a holler.”

    I’m curious, what sort of a libertarian considers surveillance of gatherings of American citizens by government security agencies to be this unworthy of concern? But heaven forbid I call you a conservative – you can just smell the love of liberty and skepticism of government in that statemnt!

    “I didn’t get that from reading the post. I got that they were listed in a database as an “antiwar” group holding meetings – not that they were listed as an active threat of any kind.”

    They were listed in a database of potential security threats.

    “Odd as this sounds, occasionally, anti-war groups get people who aren’t pacifists.”

    Certainly. But this isn’t International ANSWER or some even more radical group. This was the American Friends Service Committee.

    Anyway, the dramatic shift from “Granted, there are always people in positions of authority who are stupid, do stupid things, or who manage to generally rise to the occasion by virtue of their complete incompetence,” to “you’ll have to excuse my lack of outrage over a couple of entries in a DoD database intended to keep tabs on people who might attempt to infiltrate U.S. military bases and get up to all kinds of vandalism, etc,” has been noted, sally.

  26. We all agree that monitoring Quakers is dumb.

    But if the people in charge of keeping military bases safe didn’t keep an eye on the people who want to protest outside entrance processing stations (as TPMMuckraker flagged) or at the gates of Fort Benning — where protesters’ explicit goal is to interfere with military operatiosn — than those security guys wouldn’t be doing their job.

    And Dave Weigel, as you point out, within our lifetime elements of the hard left have wanted to terrorize American society. Elements of the hard right have done the same. In other words, keeping one eye out for potential domestic terrorism is a good idea.

  27. “I’m curious, what sort of a libertarian considers surveillance of gatherings of American citizens by government security agencies to be this unworthy of concern?” – joe

    The kind who realizes that there are actually people the gov’t should keep a pretty good eye on. You know, the Timothy McVeighs and Khalid Almihdhars of the world. If I had to pick anything the gov’t actually SHOULD do, its “provide for the common defense.” Y’know, as opposed to “provide for mixed use neighborhoods.”

    “But heaven forbid I call you a conservative – you can just smell the love of liberty and skepticism of government in that statemnt!” -joe

    Yep, Heaven forbid you realize that there’s anything other than the binary dichotomy of partisan nonsense you use as a filter between you and reality. While I’m plenty skeptical of the gov’t and I’d put my love of individual liberty up against yours any day of the week – I just don’t see what the big deal is on this particular issue. It’s not like DoD was dropping SWAT teams on Quaker gatherings.

    “They were listed in a database of potential security threats.” – joe

    No, they were listed as an anti-war organization in an “antiterrorist database used by the Defense Department in an effort to prevent attacks against military installations.” There’s a profound difference there, but it obviously makes you feel better to conflate the two to wind up your binary world-view outrage.

    “Certainly. But this isn’t International ANSWER or some even more radical group. This was the American Friends Service Committee.” – joe

    And there’s NEVER any overlap in those groups, and there’s never anyone who could conceivably confuse the two.

    “Anyway, the dramatic shift from … has been noted, sally.” – joe

    Gee, if I’m gonna be “noted” in your scary database joe, be sure to list me as “nancy.”

  28. “Certainly. But this isn’t International ANSWER or some even more radical group. This was the American Friends Service Committee.” – joe

    trotsky answers this the way I’d have liked to.

  29. “The kind who realizes that there are actually people the gov’t should keep a pretty good eye on. You know, the Timothy McVeighs and Khalid Almihdhars of the world.”

    Yes, fine, by all means, keep an eye on radical Islamist groups and people like McVeigh. There is a history of violence from both of those sources. But we’re talking about the Quakers here. There is no plausible reason to be consider them to be “people the gov’t should keep a pretty good eye on,” unless one counts, as you so plainly do, opposition to violence and dissent from a Republican president to be the equivalent of joining a violent hate group. Who is it that’s indulging in a shallow, binary world view? I dare say that it’s the person lumping Timothy McVeigh and the Quakers together.

    ‘No, they were listed as an anti-war organization in an “antiterrorist database…”‘

    “Anti terrorist database.” For Quakers. I win.

    “trotsky answers this the way I’d have liked to.”

    Trotsky’s answer was to conflate the National Friends Service Committee with the Weathermen. Nice misleading, binary political viewpoint you’ve got there, nancy.

  30. ‘In the mean time, you’re starting to sound pretty shrill, or “nancy,” as you like to call it.’

    Well, rob, perhaps if I had your testicular fortitude, I’d understand why I need the Department of Defense to protect me from the Quakers.

    We are a nation of bedwetters if we allow the government to treat peaceful people like this.

  31. Rob,

    You mean, with a few stray typos?

  32. We are a nation of bedwetters if we allow the government to treat peaceful people like this.

    Probably. Some of us clamor for the government to investigate Quakers, others beg the cops to search their handbags before they go on the subway.

  33. Try a GOOGLE FOR “TOMMY THE TRAVELER”- a paid police agent who would weasel his way into college antiwar types in the late 60’s, feed them everything they needed to make a bomb, bust them, then gin up the next phoney terror cell.then there was various reigns of terror in other states, & times, as the police set up both drug & political busts……not now, of course. Oh, no…
    yup, the State is my friend, and my default. Am I a good “libertarian” now??

  34. But we’re talking about the Quakers here. There is no plausible reason to be consider them to be “people the gov’t should keep a pretty good eye on,”

    Well, to be fair, Richard Nixon was raised Quaker. You never know when the next Quaker Nixon might appear.

  35. “Yes, fine, by all means, keep an eye on radical Islamist groups and people like McVeigh. There is a history of violence from both of those sources.” – joe

    Uh-oh… You mean it IS OK for the gov’t to keep tabs on people? Hmmm… That’s a slippery slope that could lead to entering a Quaker meeting into a database!

    “But we’re talking about the Quakers here. There is no plausible reason to be consider them to be ‘people the gov’t should keep a pretty good eye on,'” – joe

    Because no religious group has ever gone from pacifists to holing themselves up in Jonestown or Waco…

    “unless one counts, as you so plainly do, opposition to violence and dissent from a Republican president to be the equivalent of joining a violent hate group.” – joe

    Obviously I don’t. But I know that believing this kind of tripe is what makes you feel warm and fuzzy and happy and secure in your worldview, so enjoy that delusion for all it’s worth.

    “Who is it that’s indulging in a shallow, binary world view? I dare say that it’s the person lumping Timothy McVeigh and the Quakers together.”

    No, it’s the guy who doesn’t think that an antiwar meeting might have a few guys in it who are anything but pacifists. Oh, because it’s a Quaker meeting it makes the fact that they’re planning “non-violent” means to access military bases and interfere with the missions of those bases means that no one from a less-pacifist organization might sit in on it to see what security holes the Quakers have discovered? You’re just being purposefully obtuse again.

    “‘Anti terrorist database.'” For Quakers. I win.

    If it was a counter-terrorist database, I’d agree with you. Maybe you should look up the difference between the two.

    “Well, rob, perhaps if I had your testicular fortitude, I’d understand why I need the Department of Defense to protect me from the Quakers.” – joe

    Oh, nice one. Now you’re trying to make it look like I’m calling YOU a coward after you started in about how I’m such a scaredy-cat I want to see the Quakers rounded up? Gee, what’s next, you’ll call me a “chickenhawk”?

    “We are a nation of bedwetters if we allow the government to treat peaceful people like this.” – joe

    No, but freaking out over a couple of entries in a database seems pretty silly to me.
    “Probably. Some of us clamor for the government to investigate Quakers, others beg the cops to search their handbags before they go on the subway.” Eric the .5b

    No one thinks the Quakers are about to start a bombing campaign and no one is advocating pointless searches.

    “a paid police agent who would weasel his way into college antiwar types in the late 60’s, feed them everything they needed to make a bomb, bust them, then gin up the next phoney terror cell.” – MUTT

    That was obviously wrong. And it’s a far cry from listing a couple of Quaker meetings in a database.

    “then there was various reigns of terror in other states, & times, as the police set up both drug & political busts……not now, of course.” – MUTT

    Nope. Not these days. And if it does happen I’m with you that its just plain wrong and should be stopped. But flipping out over a couple of entries in a database is perhaps taking things a bit TOO seriously.

  36. “.. Nope. Not these days. And if it does happen I’m with you that its just plain wrong and should be stopped. But flipping out over a couple of entries in a database is perhaps taking things a bit TOO seriously.”
    WHAT? Are you serious? We just sat thru yet another concocted war, we are seeing people vanished into “secret” gulags- and the Padilla case collapsed, because it was by & large fabricated. I was being sarcastic, Rob. What the State cannot find, it will invent. Thats as true now as it was when Tommy the Traveler created terror cells out of whole cloth.
    Tho your childlike faith on those running the show is touching. Sorta Eisenhower-era-ish.
    Nah. theFeds will squander vast resources spying on harmless individuals, infiltrating church groups, slandering nuns, fer chrisake, like they did during the Carter/Reagan Central American butchery.
    Why? Because its easy. Because the people running the show are in love with power, lie a lot, and cant stand public exposure. Defending the Republic? Hardly. Defending thier own criminal asses- yup.

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