DOD ending TALON military database of domestic terror threats

[JURIST] US Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. [official profile] said Tuesday that the Defense Department's controversial Threat and Local Observation Notice system, or TALON database [Wired report; JURIST news archive] would be discontinued. Documents released by the Defense Department showed that the Pentagon labeled anti-war activities as "potential terrorist activity" [JURIST report] and monitored students, Quakers and other anti-war groups while collecting information for the domestic terror threats database. According to a DOD statement, Clapper "does not believe [the results of the TALON program] merit continuing the program as currently constituted, particularly in light of its image in Congress and the media."

An NBC News report in December 2005 revealed that the military maintained the database of "suspicious incidents," including peaceful anti-war protests and groups. Vietnam war era regulations [PDF text] limit what information the military can collect about people and activities taking place inside the US, and the Pentagon launched an investigation [DOD press release; JURIST report] into possible misuse of the program. According to DOD officials, the investigation revealed that 261 entries were improper and subject to removal [JURIST report]. Military officials have also acknowledged that some records were kept longer than the DOD's internal 90-day policy even though the groups had been deemed not to be a threat. US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) welcomed the decision [press release] Wednesday, saying that " Talon was another costly, controversial and poorly focused venture that did not make us any safer, while taking a hefty toll in Americans' privacy and Americans' tax dollars. Without clear rules and close oversight, databases like this can easily be abused to violate the public’s constitutional and privacy rights." The Washington Post has more.

4/26/07 - AP is reporting that Clapper has made a recommendation to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the TALON database be shut down, but that a final decision on whether to continue the program has not yet been made. AP has more.



 

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