Friday, May 08, 2009

Report: “Army Surveillance of Civilians” (1972)

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Prompted by Capt. Christopher Pyle’s 1970 revelations of U.S. Army surveillance; the Tatum v Laird case, which petitioned “the courts to enjoin the army from the collection, distribution, storage of information on lawful political activities of persons unassociated with the armed forces”; and Morton Kondrache’s 1972 Chicago Sun-Times reporting, the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights [1] released U.S. Army Surveillance of Civilians: A Documentary Analysis (1972, 92d Congress, 2d session). 

The Subcommittee (1972:44) credits Kondrache with breaking the story regarding the Continental Army Command’s (CONARC 1955-1973) “computerized and non-computerized files” in which the Subcommittee (1974: v) discovered “enormity in data collection” in the surveillance of professors, students, housewives, civil rights workers, and anti-war and political activists.[2] In its Documentary Analysis, the Subcommittee wrote: 

The absence of civilian control over this surveillance prior to 1970 has already been established. This report proves an absence of central military control as well. Each major data bank developed independent of others in a milieu which showed little concern for the values of privacy, freedom, efficiency, or economy (1972:97). 

In addition to the Subcommittee’s (1972:44, 97) unearthing of an extensive, decades-long intelligence-collection and information-sharing program conducted by CONARC and its “subordinate continental armies and their constituent elements,” most remarkable are the revelations of the Army’s perceptions of their domestic mission and “vacuum cleaner” approach to intelligence-gathering and surveillance: