Domestic Spying on S.B. Peaceniks

by Nick Welsh

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer denounced the
collection of political information by the governor’s Office of
Homeland Security (OHS) earlier this year about a protest co-hosted
by the Santa Barbara chapter of the Women’s International League
for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in the Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens.
“There’s no legitimate intelligence purpose served by the
collection of this type of information. Zero,” said Lockyer
spokesperson Tom Dresslar. Dresslar added that based on reports of
such intelligence-gathering that appeared in the Los Angeles Times
last weekend, the OHS has drafted new guidelines “based on freedom
of speech and the Bill of Rights.” The Times reported that a
private contractor hired by the OHS had included information in its
March 7 report stating the Santa Barbara demonstration was
scheduled to take place the following month.

Ultimately that demonstration — on behalf of MacGregor Eddy
(pictured), a Salinas nurse arrested for trespassing at a
Vandenberg Air Force Base peace protest — never took place. OHS
Deputy Director Chris Bertelli acknowledged that the information
was included in a daily briefing prepared by SRA International, but
said OHS officials objected to its inclusion at the time. SRA
International is a private contractor hired by OHS and is paid $4
million by the state of California to assist in
information-gathering and analysis. Bertelli added that the
information was included in a draft report prepared by SRA — which
was just beginning its contract at the time — as a dress rehearsal
for what kind of information was to be included, and excluded. “We
told them at the time this is not something we want, that it was
not appropriate, and that it violated policy. It was a draft report
and it never made it into a final report and it never made it to
the director. And it’s never happened again.” Bertelli described
the report on the WILPF protest as extremely brief and “bare
bones.” To make matters worse, the SRA report also managed to get
its facts wrong. According to Judith Evered of the Santa Barbara
WILPF chapter, WILPF was one of 12 organizations to sponsor the
courthouse demonstration, not the only one. “I think they gave us a
little too much credit,” she said. As for Eddy, since sentenced for
her trespassing, she said the state attention was “flattering, but
creepy.” She noted that Santa Barbara’s WILPF chapter has six
members with the average age of 80 — in fact it’s 12 members and
they’re not quite that old — adding, “If we were not sliding toward
a police state,” she said, “it would be funny.”


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