Pentagon to expand domestic intelligence activities

I told you so.

In August, I told you about the Pentagon’s ten-year planning document wherein the Department of Defense would greatly expand its domestic intelligence collection and sharing with civilian agencies. The Pentagon has been steadily moving forward with its plans to establish itself in domestic intelligence.

The Washington Post on Sunday ran a detailed story with the latest.

The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts — including protecting military facilities from attack — to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. . . .

“We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview.

Wyden has since persuaded lawmakers to change the legislation, attached to the fiscal 2006 intelligence authorization bill, to address some of his concerns, but he still believes hearings should be held. Among the changes was the elimination of a provision to let Defense Intelligence Agency officers hide the fact that they work for the government when they approach people who are possible sources of intelligence in the United States.

Modifications also were made in the provision allowing the FBI to share information with the Pentagon and CIA, requiring the approval of the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, for that to occur, and requiring the Pentagon to make reports to Congress on the subject. Wyden said the legislation “now strikes a much fairer balance by protecting critical rights for our country’s citizens and advancing intelligence operations to meet our security needs.”

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the data-sharing amendment would still give the Pentagon much greater access to the FBI’s massive collection of data, including information on citizens not connected to terrorism or espionage.

The measure, she said, “removes one of the few existing privacy protections against the creation of secret dossiers on Americans by government intelligence agencies.” She said the Pentagon’s “intelligence agencies are quietly expanding their domestic presence without any public debate.” — Washington Post

The full article is worth a read. I’ll wait.

I’ll also continue watching this carefully. The military does indeed need access to intelligence information on U.S. citizens from time to time, and that information should be held under strict control to prevent misuse. But even then, that really isn’t enough.

Now, those secret files the FBI is keeping on innocent Americans who have never committed a crime in their life may be shared with military intelligence agencies.

Unfortunately, people who should know better are going all stupid over this.

Chris Short says to expect “the next great liberal freak out.” I was going to denounce that as stupid, but the liberals are freaking out. “Welcome to Germany, 1933,” writes Jo Fish.

The liberals are perhaps yelling too loudly about this, but the conservatives are not concerned enough. Or they’re in on it, and want a police state.

As for me, I will simply continue watching with deep concern, as while this sort of sharing has great potential to eliminate inefficiencies in intelligence gathering and analysis, it also has great potential for abuse.