Gay rights groups ask the US government why they’re being spied on

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A group representing lesbian and gay soldiers has today filed a Freedom of Information request with the US government to ascertain the extent of Pentagon spying of gay rights groups based in major universities.

The Service-members Legal Defence Network (SLDN), have filed the request on behalf of themselves and 13 other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations, seeking information related to the Pentagon’s domestic spy program.

Last week, American newspapers reported that that Pentagon officials had been spying on what they labelled as “suspicious” meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military’s’ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gay soldiers.

It had been alleged that LGBT student groups at the State University of New York at Albany, William Patterson College and New York University Law School were all monitored as part of the domestic spy program.

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is justifiably alarmed to learn that the federal government has been spying on private citizens exercising their first amendment rights to speak, protest and gather,” said C. Dixon Osburn, director of SLDN. “We demand to know which LGBT groups have been monitored, what data has been gathered about those groups and why Pentagon leaders consider law-abiding citizens to be a threat to our national security.”

Like its counterpart in Britain, the American Freedom of Information Act gives individuals and groups the right to receive copies of internal government documents. Today’s request includes a demand for “any and all documents” concerning meetings and communications within and between LGBT organizations. It also includes a request for “reports, video recordings, audio recording and photographs” obtained through Pentagon surveillance. It also specifically requests information on protests and demonstrations at New York University and the University of California-Santa Cruz.

At the end of last year, the Bush administration claimed that spying on American citizens is both legal and necessary for the security of the nation.