1970 February 26

Army to Stop Monitoring Peaceful Protests


The U.S Army announced on this day that it would stop monitoring peaceful antiwar protests, and also that it would stop keeping lists of the names of individual protesters. The Army admitted to having files on 18.5 million people. The ACLU had filed suit to stop the practice.

Secret spying on Americans by the Army began in the 1960s, in response to the urban riots that began in the summer of 1964. It was expanded to include surveillance of the antiwar movement protests against the Vietnam War. The spying program was exposed by retired Captain Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer, in a magazine article on January 15, 1970. He then delivered a 76-page report on military spying to the Senate on February 24, 1971.

The Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Read: Christopher H. Pyle, Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967–1970 (1986)

Read the Church Committee Report on military spying (pp. 785–834):  http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Learn about the early history of military spying on Americans:  Joan Jensen, Army Surveillance in America, 1775–1980 (1991)

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