Did National Guard Spy on War Protesters?

A state senator said on Wednesday a federal probe into the California National Guard may hamper his own investigation into allegations that the Guard spied on anti-war protesters.

“I fear that what may occur here is that the federal authorities, if they find damning evidence of the Guard acting outside the law, may very well take possession of that material and take it out of the state of California depriving us of any access to that information,” said state Sen. Joe Dunn.

“If that’s what’s happening, it is a cover up, plain and simple and that’s what we want to prevent.”

Dunn, who controls funding for California’s National Guard, plans to hold hearings into whether a Guard unit that analyzes terrorism threats spied on people at a May 8 anti-war rally.

Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Douglas Hart said the Guard would cooperate with Dunn’s requests if they are coordinated with requests by federal investigators.

Hart said the threat assessment unit did not spy on the rally, but its joint-operations center had been asked to record the protest if it appeared on local television news.

The Guard had expected protesters to demand that troops be ordered home from Iraq, Hart said. “If we’re the subject of a news story then we like to know about it.”

Dunn said the Guard should turn over a computer hard-drive, which could contain e-mails relating to its intentions regarding the protest. The drive has since been erased.

“That raises our suspicion level to extraordinary heights,” Dunn said.

“What is standard operating procedure for our department when somebody leaves is we take their computer and clean it out and reissue it,” said Hart.