And the drumbeat continues.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Make it Viet Nam again. Rat-a-tat-tat.
A California congresswoman and a state senator are planning plan [sic] separate hearings into whether a California National Guard unit was established as a spy agency.
Guard spokesmen denied that was the unit’s intent but declined to make the unit’s commander available for an interview to fully explain its function.
State Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, whose budget subcommittee oversees funding for the California National Guard, said Tuesday he has ordered the Guard to turn over all documents about the unit, formally called the Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion program. That would include any information collected about citizens.
That last request will be easy, because no such information has been collected, Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Douglas Hart said.
He said the new unit includes nine soldiers and airmen, two of whom monitor the military’s classified e-mail system and seven who work with the State Terrorism Threat Assessment Center. That center is the successor to a terrorism-information unit created after the 2001 attacks and operated by the state Department of Justice.
The seven help gauge terrorist threats to bridges, buildings and other structures, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
“They don’t monitor the activities of groups that are engaged in anti-war protests or the like,” Dresslar said.
Seems like a straightforward answer, especially considering we’re talking about a unit of nine in our nation’s most populous state. Just how did we get to this point?
The National Guard intelligence unit came to public attention after a story published Sunday in the San Jose Mercury News. The story referred to the unit’s monitoring of a Mother’s Day anti-war demonstration at the state Capitol that was organized by several peace groups â€” the Gold Star Families for Peace, Raging Grannies and CodePink.
An e-mail chain that began in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s press office culminated in an advisory a few days before the protest from Col. Jeff Davis, who oversees the National Guard unit: “our Intell. folks … continue to monitor” the event.
Hart said the monitoring amounted to recording television coverage and reading newspaper articles about the protest. He said the unit did not infiltrate the groups or observe the rally.
“That’s all there was to it. That was the extent of our ‘surveillance’,” Hart said.
A unit tasked to monitor threats to infrastructure damned well better be concerned about protests and rallies. Should they be tracking the individuals involved, investigating and delving through records? No, that is not their role. The job, as described, is to know of opportunities for threats, then evaluate and monitor the overall situation. There is no evidence in this story to suggest that anything else was done.
Margita Thompson, spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said, “The administration is concerned, and we are looking into it.”
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, plans to question California National Guard officials at a House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee hearing.
Peninsula Raging Grannies co-chair Ruth Robertson said she suspects the government has a greater interest, perhaps because of her group’s efforts to dissuade people from enlisting in the military.
“Our median age is 72 â€” we are not threatening,” Robertson said. “We are all about peace.”
Well, if one wants to play the age card, I would suggest that a 72-year-old grandmother is far more likely to be a traitor than a 12-year-old Little Leaguer. That said, I see no problem with a group whose aim is to dissuade people from entering the service. After all, we are talking about an all-volunteer force; each potential soldier should have any information he or she desires during the decision-making process. As long as that is all these Grannies are doing, then more power to them. As long as that’s all they’re doing.
Gold Star Families member Cindy Sheehan said she’s not bothered: “If they’re monitoring what we’re doing, we must be scaring them, and I think that’s great.” The group is composed of people whose sons or daughters have died in military conflicts.
Group composition be damned, if they are so smug about and proud of being monitored then so be it, let them be monitored. However, that is the realm of the FBI rather than the military.
What? No Viet Nam yet? Are the leftists, peaceniks and Dems slipping?
Dunn said he was not reassured by the unit’s denials.
“History has not been kind to such assertions by government and military officials,” Dunn said.
He referred to the Vietnam War era, when the military collected information on more than 100,000 Americans during the 1960s and 1970s.
Thank you. That took long enough.
Questions about the state’s anti-terrorism center also arose two years ago, when Lockyer’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau warned Oakland police about “potential violence” during a protest there.
Police, firing wooden dowels and beanbag projectiles, ultimately injured at least two dozen protesters. Lockyer subsequently disavowed the tracking of groups or individuals that avoid violence or other illegal acts, even if they engage in otherwise harmless civil disobedience.
In a statement this week about the National Guard unit, Lockyer said, “You have to wonder how monitoring the activities of soldiers’ widows and orphans advances the anti-terrorism effort.”
Well, this section certainly has negative overtones to it. Did you notice that the man questioning the National Guard in the third paragraph is the man whose own bureau was involved in the warning painted so negatively in the two preceding paragraphs? Is that a scent of sweat of a man straining to shift attention? By the way, the story lacks context, but on the surface it appears that warnings of potential violence were indeed accurate.
Dunn said that even if the National Guard unit formed last year isn’t spying, the Guard should have cleared the unit with legislators because “perception could put a cloud over these activities,” Dunn said. “Spying on United States citizens is a radioactive topic.”
The Guard on Tuesday abruptly canceled an interview The Associated Press had scheduled with Col. Robert J. O’Neill, director of the new program, citing Dunn’s planned hearings.
“I would respectfully suggest the Guard is taking absolutely the wrong approach to shut down information to the public or media about this unit,” Dunn said. “It only raises the suspicions of the public and the media when the Guard retreats into a bunker mentality.”
Dunn demands hearings. Guard cancels an interview because of those hearings. Dunn claims Guard is shutting up and casts a shadow on the military. Listen, Dunn, the Guard is not hiding from you; rather, they’re heeding your beck and call. Must you smear them with suspicion and questions of perception before they even sit before you at your hearing?
My prediction: tempest in a teapot. But the useful idiots will play it for all it’s worth. Disclaimer: I was in the military. I distrust the anti-war movement. Here’s just one very good example why I feel that way.
Any input from a local in Cali, Eric?