WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 — A Florida senator is demanding an investigation into a secret Pentagon database that collects information on American anti-war activists. As NBC News reported first on Dec. 13, the Pentagon has been monitoring anti-war groups across the country.
Wednesday, some members of a Florida anti-war group called "The Truth Project" demanded that the Pentagon turn over all information collected about their group.
And Florida Senator Bill Nelson wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asking how this peaceful group could be listed a "threat" in a previously secret Pentagon database.
"When the Pentagon starts going into a Quaker meeting house in Florida, then it's a question of invasion of privacy," says Nelson, R-Fla.
Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman defended the collection of domestic intelligence in the database, which lists 1,500 "suspicious incidents" over a 10-month period. The spokesman said the military has "a legitimate interest in protecting its installations and... people, and to the extent that they use information collected by law enforcement agencies to do that, that's... appropriate."
Some incidents in the database do refer to FBI reports. But information on a weekly protest at an Atlanta recruiting station comes not from law enforcement, but from the Army's 902nd military intelligence group. So does a report on a protest at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
"This document, it's a clue that shows the level of surveillance, the level of domestic surveillance that the U.S. military is now involved in," says Bill Arkin, an NBC News military analyst.
The Pentagon still refuses to say how it's collecting this information, whether the military itself is spying on protest groups, or asking local law enforcement to do surveillance and report back.