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Quakers say police state near

Title: Quakers say police state near
Date: Tuesday, 1 June 1976
Publisher: Washington Star-News
Author: William F. Willoughby
Main source: link (93 KiB)

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The American Friends' Service Committee, the first, and until recently, the only registered church lobby, has charged that the United States is "in close danger of developing the very police state we as a people fear so much."

The warning by the Quaker agency on Capitol Hill was made after it revealed that government agencies have been keeping it under surveillance since 1921.

The Quaker committee thus far has collected nearly 1,300 pages on itself from government intelligence agencies under the new Freedom of Information Act.

THE ORGANIZATION was formed in 1917 by all branches of the Religious Society of Friends, and by 1921, the FOI reports indicate, it was under the watch of the FBI, with other groups following.

The lobby group, which for years has been issuing a detailed report on U.S. military spending, says in a new publication, "Freedom for Americans: 1976," that its activities in behalf of pacifism have brought it "from time to time into conflict with those who confuse dissent with disloyalty, and who believe that efforts to achieve better international relations must be 'Communist-inspired.'

"Accusations that we are infiltrated by or being used by Communists is an old story. Since our earliest relief work we have often been investigated by the FBI or the attorney general's office, only to be inevitably 'cleared' as a genuinely religious, humanitarian organization."

The publication said the group "never allowed this miasma of suspicion to deter us from following the dictates of conscience, and we have always sought to dispel the climate of opinion which encourages the investigation of private and humanitarian groups such as ours, as well as of legitimate social change and political groups."

PAUL BRINK, a press spokesman for the Quaker Lobby, said there are at least 20 government agencies amassing files on civilians and civilian groups.

He said the FBI and CIA are lending support to police state fears by planting agent-provacateurs and in using state police, local police and local "red squads" in the process of spying, theft, and in some cases, destruction of property and risk of lives.

"We live in a free society, or we don't," the Quaker publication said. "Citizens must exercise their constitutional rights or they will become atrophied.

"In 1976 it is fitting to declare that American citizens will not submissively permit the freedoms established by our founders to be diminished or destroyed by a state that has adopted some of the apparatus of tyranny."

THIS GROUP is not the only church-related organization to complain of surveillance by government agencies. Such groups as the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Bible Presbyterian Church, the Church of Scientology and others have been under the watch of policing agencies.

Last week the Church of Scientology, which has uncovered several thousand pages of police agency material about it, some of which is described as "deliberate misinformation and disinformation," offered to assist any church group which wants to use its expertise in getting classified information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Some information, both the Quakers and the Scientologists report, is hard come by. Other agencies, including the FBI, respond quickly.

The Quakers reported they had obtained 365 pages of documents from the FBI, about 190 from the Air Force, 396 from the CIA, 88 from the Navy, 141 from the Internal Revenue Service, and 66 from the Secret Service. The State Department, Defense Department and the Army also responded.

THE DEFENSE Intelligence Agency (DIA) took a year to respond, the Quakers reported, and then only with a single "declassified in part" document bearing only the name of the Quaker lobby.

But a Quaker spokesman said it is known through congressional hearing testimony that the National Security Agency provided a "watch list" which included the lobby to the DIA and five other governmental agencies.

Scientologists have had little cooperation from the State Department, among others, and have a $40 million suit pending against the department and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger because of failure to reveal what is contained in documents on the church.

The Quakers said the bulk of the pages collected by them indicates "an inappropriate intrusion by the government into the beliefs and activities of the American Friends' Service Committee. It indicates no legitimate interest on the part of the government. Some of the surveillance is patently illegal."