Thursday, August 6, 2009

U.S. Army Domestic Surveillance post-WWII: Information & Guide

Activists in Washington state announced to a July 21, 2009 Olympia City Council meeting that the U.S. Army had been spying on them. Soon after they sent out a mass email alerting the public that the U.S. Army's John Jacob Towery II, stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, had infiltrated the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, the NW Anti-Imperialist Direct Action Coalition (NWAIDC), and Port Militarization Resistance. Democracy Now! was the first news outlet to break the story.

Domestic spying by the U.S. armed forces is illegal. But as Christopher Pyle noted the next day on Democracy Now!, it is not new. Pyle's Washington Monthly article in 1970 blew the cover on an extensive network of over "1500 Army plainclothes agents working out of 300 offices" whose mission was to spy on the activities of the anti-war and civil rights movements inside the United States.

After breaking the story of Army spying in the 1960s, Pyle testified in front of and later became an adviser to U.S. Senator Sam Ervin's Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. Ervin's hearings on illegal military surveillance laid the foundation for his investigation of the Watergate burglaries and cover-up, as well as Senator Church's investigations into FBI and CIA intelligence and counter-intelligence operations (which Mr. Pyle also advised/ did investigations for). It also set the stage for the ill-fated Pike Committee investigations of CIA domestic surveillance.

But unfortunately, while Church committee reports have been fairly widely published (and even republished in their entirety online), and a leaked version of the Pike Report was published as a book (though still remains rather rare), the original reports on the U.S. Army's domestic surveillance programs have received much less attention.

Thankfully, the internet is helping daylight rare documents that have largely been archived in ways that made them not easily accessible to the general public.

The Memory Hole has preserved a 1972 report written by Pyle--"Army Surveillance of Civilians: A Documentary Analysis"-- from the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights investigation. Susan Maret wrote an intro to that report here.

And the Boston Public Library recently digitized "Military Surveillance"-- the full transcripts of 1974 hearings by the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights on U.S. Army surveillance programs.

Inspired by their examples, I have digitized and made available for public dissemination Pyle's 1973 report, "Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics: A Report of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate."

In addition, Pyle's 1974 PhD dissertation, "Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967-70," whose published version is nearly impossible to purchase, is now available via Proquest digital dissertations.

It is worth noting that the National Archives has files on the Army's response to Pyle's exposure of its domestic surveillance programs during the early 1970s, as well as perhaps a few documents that remain from its near-total records purge. These are located in Record Group 319, and some of them have been made available via microfilm.

To assist interested researchers, I have digitized the National Archives finding aid for "Records of Army Staffs Relating to Intelligence Matters (RG 319)." According to NARA's Modern Military Records Archivist, "most of these records are declassified and open to the public." The finding aid covers both domestic and foreign intelligence holdings.

Information on U.S. Army domestic intelligence of particular note in RG 319, because it has to my knowledge not been written about by historians, are the Records of the Army Intelligence Command (USAINTC), E-1078 & E-1073 from RG 319.22, and the Records of the Chief of Staff for Intelligence Task Force (ASCI Task Force), E-1072 from RG 319.25.3.

These reports and archival sources help preserve historical memory about the illegal domestic intelligence and counter-intelligence programs of the U.S. army during the late 1960s. It's a history that, because of the Army's massive document destruction and cover-up, we will never know the full scope of. But our failure to hold individuals accountable in the 1970s continues to haunt us in the 21st century as we learn about the military's continued illegal surveillance activities of American citizens.

**Pre-WWII U.S. Army domestic surveillance has been much better documented by scholarly monographs, which are too numerous to list here. This is because the Army's files were better preserved, and the history is distant enough that the federal government has been willing to release them to the public. These files can be found in NARA, Record Group 165.4. A selection of them has been made available to the public through this microfilm collection. Additional records, especially relating to Army surveillance of "dissidents" during World War I, can also be found in some regional branches of the national archives.

1 comment:

  1. You misunderstand - there was a Purge Project at the end of the war but not operating from Huachuca. It was based in Baltimore long after the base was closed.

    Good luck - you will find nothing. .