Albion Monitor /News

Military Should Spy on Internet, Says Pentagon Report

by Jeff Elliott

Recommends "offensive use" including psychological campaigns

A recent Pentagon report about the Internet recommends routine monitoring of Usenet and mailing lists, surveillance of political activists, and "offensive uses" of the Internet by the military, including Psychological Operations (Psyops) campaigns.

"Used creatively as an integral asset, the Internet can facilitate many DoD [Department of Defense] operations and activities," wrote author Charles Swett, a strategic assessment assistant for the Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict office.

As part of those operations and activities, analyst Swett saw potential for recruiting support for military policies. "A great deal of 'brain power' exists on the Internet, and if it could be harnessed and channeled for productive purposes, it might be a useful addition to DoD's informational and political assets. Any such use, of course, would have to be protected by appropriate security measures."

Non-violent progressive groups listed next to militia, white supremacists

While much of the report is a routine appraisal of the types of communication found on the Internet, critics have pointed out Swett's emphasis on using the network for intelligence gathering, particularly of environmental, politically progressive, and human rights organizations.

While the author says the Internet can be valuable for gathering "information about the plans and operations of politically active groups," only passing references are made to any organizations from the far right, including those with histories of violence.

In the few sections where mention is given to extremists on the right, they are listed among non-violent progressive organizations.

Quoting a 1994 article from the Wall Street Journal, the groups Earth First!, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), The National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and The Gay Agenda Resistance were described as "fringe groups" exploiting the Internet. On the same list were included the white supremacist National Alliance and Michigan Militia.

The longest description in the paper covers the San Francisco-based Institute for Global Communications (IGC) and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). More commonly known as the Internet domain, this service provides access for more than 25,000 activists worldwide.

Mentioned along with IGC were "alternative news sources," which, Swett said, "play a significant, if slanted, role in filling gaps left by the reports issued by the mainstream news media." Among the news wires described was Inter Press Service (IPS), used by the Albion Monitor. IPS is among the largest news services worldwide, and is the only one of the top five services that reguarly covers news from developing countries.

"I'm a little stunned to see my Usenet post in a paper prepared in the Pentagon"

The report also suggested that grassroots activists who attempt to organize political action should be monitored. Wrote Swett, "The Internet is thus highly attractive to activists who value a populist approach as opposed to a republican approach that emphasizes electing representatives and influencing their positions."

As an example, Swett described one call for non-violent political protest as"startling:"

Another, somewhat startling, example, is a message posted on the Internet on December 16, 1994, calling for nationwide protests against the Republican Party's Contract with America. The message accuses the Contract with America of being, in effect, class war, race war, gender war, and generational war, and urges recipients to "mobilize thousands of demonstrations in local communities across the nation," "fill the jails by engaging in acts of civil disobedience," and engage in other disruptive actions ...
The message quoted was written by Keith Ramsey, co-founder of Queer Nation / San Diego. Like most individuals cited in the report, Ramsey was unaware of the document until he was contacted by the Albion Monitor.

"I'm a little stunned to see my Usenet post in a paper prepared in the Pentagon," Ramsey said. "I'm a local, fairly small-time activist, and to have drawn the attention of someone in the DoD is something of a surprise. I'm no Luis Farrakhan."

Ramsey added that he always assumes public meetings by groups such as ACT UP are monitored by the government, and that he sees no difference in surveillance of forums such as Usenet.

The entire Pentagon report has been made available to the public by the Federation of American Scientists as part of their Project on Government Secrecy.

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Albion Monitor March 30, 1996 (

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