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fontman
07-19-06, 01:23 PM
Taping of 'Pendleton 8' supporters draws questions
By: MARK WALKER - Staff Writer
North County Times
July 18, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Temecula's Kristin Shaffer says she felt intimidated Saturday when she found herself being videotaped by a man inside a government vehicle as she took part in a rally in support of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of killing an Iraqi civilian.

Christine Bruce says she wondered the same when the white sport utility vehicle stopped across the road from the approximately 100-strong group, and a man in a white shirt and tie emerged and trained his video camera on them.

That man was from the base's Security Battalion and no intimidation was intended, base spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Batson said Tuesday. The taping was simply standard procedure whenever protest groups or groups conducting rallies gather outside the base's main gate just north of the Oceanside city limits, she said.

"It is normal procedure to videotape a few minutes of any type of protest on federal property to confirm its peaceful nature and ensure the safety of the base," Batson wrote in an e-mail response to an inquiry from the North County Times. "This is a precautionary measure that allows us, for example, to ensure signs and banners carried are in agreement with the theme of the protest. As always, we support the rights of demonstrators to voice their support for our Marines and sailors."

Bruce and Shaffer said Tuesday that what struck them as odd was this was the first time in the six consecutive Saturdays the group has been at the main gate that they were videotaped by the military. They said they have never noticed any previous taping by the military or someone appearing to be from a government agency.

Batson said Saturday's taping was not the first and that other tapings have occurred "periodically" since the rallies began in June.

Jane Siegel, a civilian attorney hired by the family of one of the accused, Pfc. John Jodka III, said she views the taping as "pathetic."

"It reminds me of the Nixon years," she said in reference to government taping and infiltrating of protest groups during the Vietnam War. "They are just people out there showing their support and they are being treated like some kind of suspect. It just creeps me out."

Batson said the tapes will be kept as long as the rallies continue.

"Once they cease, the historical record will not be needed and the tapes will be destroyed," Batson said. "Usually in cases like this, our concern is not with the protesters themselves. Instead, we are concerned with the possibility of someone who wishes to do the base harm by taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct surveillance on the front gate."

The Saturday rallies start at 10 a.m. and last until about 3 p.m. and are conducted in support of the men accused of premeditated murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and related charges in the death of 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the village of Hamdania, Iraq, on April 26.

Signs and banners typically carry expressions of support for the troops and the Marine Corps. One or two also carry the message "Innocent until proven guilty."

Shaffer said she has been at each rally, originally to protest the fact the men had not been charged and were being confined under restrictions that included being shackled when meeting with attorneys or family members.

Now that the men have been charged and the requirement they wear shackles was lifted in mid-June, Shaffer said she is there simply to express her support for the men as they await hearings to determine if the charges against them stand. Those hearings have not yet been scheduled.

"I want to be careful because I love the Marine Corps," Shaffer said. "But this was the sixth week we have been there and we always leave the area cleaner than we find it and I did feel like the taping was meant to possibly intimidate us.

"When the government comes and tapes you, you get a feeling of intimidation."

Shaffer also said she was bothered that the man doing the videotaping did not identify himself or explain what he was doing.

"The fact they were in a government vehicle being driven with our tax dollars did bother me," she said. "They are the governed and we are the governors and we don't want to be harassed."

The law generally allows anyone standing on public property to be photographed or to take photographs or shoot videotape. Batson said that even though the group was outside the main gate, where it gathers is federal property.

Bruce, a San Diego resident who helped start the Saturday rallies and has been at each one, also said she believed it was the first time the group had been videotaped by the military or a government agency.

"I just wonder what would prompt them to do this," Bruce said. "There haven't been any incidents of any kind and our signs are appropriate messages in support of the guys.

"If they come back, we will tape them and ask them what is going on," she said.

-- Contact staff writer Mark Walker (760) 74-3529 or mlwalker@nctimes.com.

ivalis
07-19-06, 08:07 PM
Welcome to bushworld folks.