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July 7, 2005

California National Guard Investigation blocked

-- by Gary Boatwright

Hat tip to KPFK radio for their interview with Rahul Mahajan this morning, who blogs infrequently at Empire Notes.

The San Jose Mercury News has reported that Sen. Joe Dunn (D) has charged that a federal probe into domestic spying charges against the California National guard is being used to block his own inquiry:

One day after being denied access to a Guard computer that had its hard drive wiped clean, Sen. Joe Dunn said he would seek legislative subpoenas today to gain access to the information central to his investigation and lashed out at military officials standing in his way.

Dunn launched his investigation last week after the Mercury News reported on the creation of a new National Guard intelligence unit that has been given ``broad authority'' to set up new anti-terrorism projects in California.

``If they continue in what I refer to as bunker mentality here, it simply confirms to us that our worst suspicions may in fact be true,'' the Garden Grove Democrat said.

But Guard officials said they plan to voluntarily comply with the senator's request.


The original story by Don Nissenbaum in the San Jose Mercury News ran on June 23rd, State's National Guard being probed by Army:

An Army investigator arrived in Sacramento this week to look into problems with the California National Guard just two weeks after the state's top general was forced to retire amid questions about his leadership.

An official with the Army Inspector General's Office has started interviewing top National Guard leaders as part of an ongoing shake-up of the state military that led to an attempt Wednesday to force out another veteran general, sources told the Mercury News.

Just the same ol' same ol' according to an anonymous National Guard official:

A National Guard official called the investigation ``routine,'' but the inspector general has been asked to look into various issues, including allegations that California improperly diverted federal funds meant to stem the flow of drugs to instead pay for new anti-terrorism programs.

The investigation comes two weeks after the California National Guard's leader, Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, was forced into retirement amid allegations that he abused his power, helped a Republican friend line up a questionable military flight and failed to properly prove his shooting skills before taking a trip to Iraq.

After Eres resigned, sources said, the Schwarzenegger administration asked the Army inspector general to look into two issues: whether the National Guard had improperly used money meant to fight drugs to pay for anti-terrorism programs and whether the general had failed to take a required shooting course for a trip to Iraq.

According to legal opinions obtained by the Mercury News, the National Guard's own attorneys raised concerns that the state was improperly diverting federal money meant for anti-drug operations to set up special anti-terrorism teams.


Gee. I wasn't aware that Major Generals are forced to resign as a result of routine investigations.
National Guard sources said Wednesday that the Army investigator who arrived this week was also looking into older allegations surrounding a 2002 annual conference in Long Beach.

Last year, the National Guard Association of the United States sued the state military and its top officials over the conference. In the lawsuit, the advocacy group claimed that National Guard officials had offered to transfer a $90,000 donation from Warner Bros. to help the private association avoid layoffs. The group also claimed that guard officials used state offices to raise money for the convention and that military leadership retaliated against two leaders of the association by trying to end their careers.

Earlier this year, the Guard reportedly settled the lawsuit by paying the association $50,000.


A Brigadier General was routinely asked to retire as well:
While the Schwarzenegger administration is searching for a new Guard leader, its acting general moved Wednesday to oust a onetime candidate for the job.

Brig. Gen. Louis Antonetti, who was a finalist to lead the Guard last year when Schwarzenegger named Eres, was asked to retire by acting Adjutant Gen. John Alexander, sources said.

Reached at his home Wednesday night, Antonetti declined to comment.


A June 29th story by the Sac Bee adds that the Mother's Day anti-war protest was staged by known Al Quaida affiliates Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace and Raging Grannies. Now back to today's update from the San Jose Mercury News:

``Given the fact that we have been hitting a brick wall in our requests, I am concerned that while they're certainly promising full compliance, their actual compliance is still in question,'' Dunn said.

Concerns that the National Guard was laying the groundwork for domestic spying were heightened by internal e-mails obtained by the Mercury News showing high-level interest in a small Mother's Day anti-war rally at the state Capitol.

One e-mail from a top officer said he was passing along information on the protest to ``our Intell. folks who continue to monitor.''

While anti-war activists have raised alarms about the e-mails, Guard officials said the monitoring amounted to nothing more than scanning local newscasts for any stories on the demonstration. They said no soldiers attended the rally and that the National Guard does not engage in domestic surveillance.

Those assurances failed to assuage civil libertarians, lawmakers, the governor's office and Army investigators -- who are all trying to determine whether the Guard has crossed a legal line and engaged in domestic spying.

The Guard my be more willing to cooperate now that they have erased at least one hard drive:

Last week, Dunn asked the Guard to preserve any documents related to monitoring of the anti-war rally and the new intelligence unit.

At the same time, computer technicians at the Guard erased the hard drive of a retiring colonel who oversaw the intelligence unit and wrote the e-mail mentioning the ``Intell. folks.''

A top Guard official said the hard drive was erased before they received Dunn's letter asking them to preserve all information relating to the intelligence unit.

After learning that the hard drive had been erased, Dunn demanded immediate access for a computer specialist to recover any data, but was rebuffed by the Guard's top general who said any access would have to be coordinated with Army investigators who launched their own probe Wednesday.


Do you think part of the Army investigation is looking at how well the hard drive was erased? We certainly wouldn't want any classified National Guard information that wasn't sufficiently erased falling into the hands of a California state legislator.

It sounds to me like a couple of retired National Guard Generals are in good standing to get the Medal of Freedom award for realizing the National Guard was above the law:

On a separate track, Dunn unveiled new legislation meant to erect stronger anti-spying barriers in California. The senator said he would look to expand federal laws banning the military from engaging in domestic spying to cover the National Guard, which is generally exempt from that regulation.

For a good laugh, check out the L.A. Times coverage of this story, Military Launches Probe of National Guard Unit. Since the L.A. Times has no reason to cover Sacramento, the Governor, the State Legislature or northern California in general, they simply ran with an A.P. story.

The California National Guard surveillance program was called "Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion." Plug that into google and you get all kinds of hits. There's an interesting round-up of media stories was at Inbox Robot, but I didn't find any references to "Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion" earlier than the San Jose Mercury News article. Who knows how long this program would have continued if the Guard hadn't gotten caught monitoring a Mother's Day anti-war protest?

Posted by Gary Boatwright at July 7, 2005 12:06 PM

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