Thursday, 17 February 2011

Ex-agents describe spying on civilians

Former Army undercover agent Christopher Pyle testifies Wednesday before the Senate Constitutional Rights subcommittee. Pyle, a former captain, is holding a photo he said was taken on a college campus as part of Army spying activities.February 25, 1971

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- Former military undercover men testified Wednesday that the Army snooped on politicians, celebrities, civil rights leaders, radicals, reporters and thousands of ordinary Americans and kept personal files on them in big, centralized computers.

They said 1,500 Army plainclothes agents had infiltrated, photographed, recorded and watched over political picnics, party conventions, peace marches, a union meeting, yippie communes, a church youth group and a drunken college brawl in Yap, N.D.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said even the hearing itself was being watched. He said an Army military intelligence unit was taping the session.

Names names, dates and places, former agents Christopher H. Pyle, Ralph M. Stein and John O'Brien went before the Senate constitutional rights subcommittee to document their assertion that military intelligence had intruded into American political affairs in a growing threat to the right of free speech and separation of the military from civil politics.

Pyle and Stein told the subcommittee that Army files and blacklists include not only Communists such as Gus Hall, but former servicemen who have spoken out against the Vietnam war, such as Adm. Arnold E. True and Brig. Gen. Hugh B. Hester; folk singers Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and Judy Collins; Executive Director Whitney Young of the Urban League; Julius Hobson Jr., a member of the District of Columbia School Board; actress Jane Fonda; Ralph David Abernathy, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and others.

Stein, who spent 15 months as a sergeant in the Army's Counterintelligence Analysis Branch in 1967-68, said the files contained detailed financial information, sexual activities, "especially illicit or unconventional," and personal beliefs and associations.

He said the names and data were put in a microfilm bank and given a number to classify the individual's political beliefs.

"For instance, 134.295 indicated that a person was a non-Communist, while 135.295 indicated Communist Party membership or advocacy of communism," Stein said.

Pyle, a former Army intelligence captain who is preparing a doctoral dissertation on the subject, said the Army maintains more than 1,500 plainclothes agents working out of 300 offices and scores of military bases from coast to coast.

Sen. Sam J. Ervin, D-N.C. charged that military spying was a direct threat to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

"The purpose of the Army is to protect this country against foreign forces," he said. "The Army under no circumstances has any right under the Constitution to enter into this area except where it is apparent that civilian law enforcement officers have attempted to suppress violence and failed."

O'Brien, 26, a former sergeant who served for a year with the 113th Military Intelligence Group in Evanston, Ill., said he had personally seen the file on Stevenson. It was started in September, 1969 when Stevenson was state treasurer of Illinois, he said.

He said the only reason the Army started the file was that undercover men had attended a Democratic Party picnic at Stevenson's home in Libertyville, Ill. and reported back that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was planning to endorse Stevenson's pending candidacy for the Senate. Jackson is a leader of Chicago's Black Community, heading an organization called Operation Breadbasket.

O'Brien said Stevenson's folder began to build with newspaper clippings and more reports from agents on his activities. Once a file was started, he said, undercover agents were on orders to collect all information possible on the "target."


Michael O'Brien said...

Good article, Do you happen to have a contact for John M. O'Brien? I am looking for someone fitting his description that transferred from 66 Military Intelligence in Bremerhaven West Germany from 1966-1969.
Contact me at michael att

Michael O'Brien said...

Where is John Michael O'Brien of 66 and 113 Military Intelligence Group?