Leahy wants to know about Pentagon spying on protests
COLCHESTER, Vt. --Sen. Patrick Leahy wants the Defense Department to give him the details about two Vermont anti-war protests that were monitored by government officials.
Leahy, a Democrat, said Vermont had a long tradition of peaceful political protest.
"I want to know the extent of it. I want to know under what conceivable, conceivable legal justification they are doing it," Leahy told Vermont Public Radio.
"And even if they could legally justify it, what dunderhead policy reason (is there) for doing it," he said. "And again, I'd like to know how much it cost. The Department of Defense says we don't have enough money to get the kind of armor and protection our troops need in Iraq, but we've got money to go around and spy on Quaker meetings?"
Pentagon policy allows it to take the legal steps necessary to protect military installations and personnel from violence.
Earlier this month, NBC News reported that the Pentagon has monitored anti-war protests as part of a stepped up intelligence collection effort. The efforts included monitoring two Vermont protests.
Joseph Gainza of the American Friends Service Committee, who helped organize those protests, said he was not surprised that the Pentagon keeps tabs on the peace movement.
"What disturbed me was that it's part of a larger pattern that this government seems to be doing what it pleases and hiding from the American people so much of its violations of law," Gainza said.
Leahy wrote Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking for more information.
"Besides, I told the Department of Defense, if they really want to hear Vermonters speak out against the war, they don't have to send a camera crew to snoop around Vermont, just turn on C-SPAN," Leahy said. "I do it on the Senate floor all the time."
Gainza said the Pentagon's monitoring of protests could have a chilling effect on the public's right to challenge the government.
"People don't want to have their names on files somewhere as doing something which the government doesn't approve of. People are very concerned about that," Gainza said.