The US Department of Defence (DoD) has released documentation confirming government surveillance of groups opposed to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning openly lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) service members, according to a gay legal group.

The government’s TALON reports were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN) in January.

The release of the documents follows media reports indicating government surveillance of civilian groups at several universities across the country. The Department of Defence acknowledged that it had ‘inappropriately’ collected information on protestors in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to a February report by United Press International.

“The Department of Defence has now confirmed the existence of a surveillance program monitoring LGBT groups,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of SLDN. “Pentagon leaders have also acknowledged inappropriately collecting some of the information in the TALON database. That information should be destroyed and no similar surveillance should be authorised in the future. Free expression is not a threat to our national security.”

Although the recently released TALON reports may not be a complete list of groups monitored, it does confirm domestic surveillance of protests at New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. DoD has indicated that it continues to search for other documents related to SLDN’s FOIA request.

In February, SLDN filed a lawsuit as part of its efforts to obtain information related to the government’s domestic spy programme.

The Bush administration has previously claimed spying on American citizens is both legal and necessary for the security of the nation.

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