By Sarah Epting, Staff Writer, Atlanta Progressive News (January 10, 2006)
(APN) ATLANTA--"Don 't they have anything to do? I am just a mom of a teenage son. I just don 't want my son or anyone else go to a stupid war," Susan Keith told Atlanta Progressive News.
Last week, Keith learned the Pentagon has been spying on her protests against public schools participating in military recruitment.
"I think it is a big waste of our money and [the government 's] time to be spying on citizens," Keith said.
She said she doesn 't know why the government would see their protest as a threat, "unless they thought we were going to do some terrorist activity, but we 're the Peace coalition."
On December 14th, 2005, NBC released a report concerning a secret 400 page Pentagon document they obtained listing more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the country. In a recent span of 10 months, these incidents had all been under surveillance by the Pentagon.
Among the few pages of the database published by NBC the rest of the pages have not been released--was a meeting and protest held by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC) in Atlanta.
The document listed the organization 's open monthly meeting held on March 28, 2005 as a "threat."
The meeting took place at the downtown Piedmont Avenue office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization committed to peace, social justice, and humanitarian service.
"This action by the government is a disgrace and a blatant violation of our right to free speech and peaceful assembly as guaranteed by the First Amendment," wrote Betti Knott, AFSC Southeast Regional Director," in a prepared statement obtained by Atlanta Progressive News. "The people of the United States have a fundamental right to organize and speak out about relevant issues."
The meeting included a discussion the then-upcoming visit of Michael Hoffman, Founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War. It also included planning for a protest that took place April 8.
Ann Mauney and Susan Keith, both members of the coalition, told Atlanta Progressive News they suspect the surveillance took place over the Internet through reading the meetings minutes that were emailed out following their meetings.
This speculation stems from the fact that GPJC does not publish agendas or notify the members of the coalition what will be discussed in advance of the meeting, so any knowledge of the nature of the meeting would have to be gathered after the fact, Keith and Mauney said.
Neither Keith nor Mauney believe spies actually attended the meeting or the protest discussed at the meeting.
Another protest deemed "suspicious" by the government was a protest by concerned parents of public school students. The parents were worried about local public schools ' complicity in military recruitment. Many schools release the names of students to military recruiters without what many local parents believe would be adequate notification or opt-out provisions.
For earlier APN reporting on the concerned parents ' counter-recruitment protests, please see: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/pages/12/index.htm