Calif. anti-terror agency denies tracking

Posted on on Sat, Jul. 01, 2006

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's anti-terror office said Saturday that it has never monitored the activities of political groups in California, denying a newspaper report that it had tracked rallies and protests.

Matthew Bettenhausen, director of the state Office of Homeland Security, said consultants had twice included upcoming political events in a daily security briefing they were developing, but they were told to stop the practice.

"It's not our policy," Bettenhausen said in an interview Saturday. "It's not part of our values to engage in the violation of civil rights and civil liberties."

The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that intelligence reports prepared for the Office of Homeland Security had included details of the rallies. The reports were prepared by SRA International, a company hired to provide counterterrorism analysis.

Bettenhausen said two reports, on March 7 and April 10, included listings of rallies. He said the rallies in the April 10 report were taken from the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, an investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was listed as one of the sources of information, according to the newspaper.

Among the political activities cited in the reports were a rally outside a Canadian consulate office in San Francisco to protest the hunting of seals; an anti-war demonstration in Walnut Creek attended by Rep. George Miller and other officials; and a gathering at a Santa Barbara courthouse to support an anti-war protester facing federal trespassing charges.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office on Friday condemned the anti-terror office's actions.

"That kind of conduct by anti-terrorism intelligence agencies threatens civil liberties, runs counter to our values and violates this office's policy regarding criminal intelligence gathering," Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar told the Times.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Adam Mendelsohn told the newspaper that the governor had "no information and no knowledge that this was happening."

The reports were on the letterhead of a California anti-terrorism partnership that includes the Office of Homeland Security, the Attorney General and the California Highway Patrol.

Copies of the reports were shared with both agencies, but nothing else was done with the information about the demonstrations, said Chris Bertelli, a spokesman for the Office of Homeland Security.

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