DoD to review domestic intelligence system

After news reports surfaced about the Threat and Local Observation Notice database, an intelligence gathering system run by the Department of Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity, containing information on U.S. citizens who have done nothing wrong, the DoD has ordered a review of the system.

The database contained such stupid reports as an anti-war meeting held by Quakers in Florida.

According to the Washington Post, defense officials said that information such as this which turned out not to be credible is to be deleted within 90 days under DoD regulations, but the information was improperly retained.

Although officials defended the Pentagon’s interest in gathering information about possible threats to military bases and troops, one senior official acknowledged that a preliminary review of the database indicated that it had not been correctly maintained.

“On the surface, it looks like things in the database that were determined not to be viable threats were never deleted but should have been,” the official said. “You can also make the argument that these things should never have been put in the database in the first place until they were confirmed as threats.”

. . . The Pentagon stopped short of officially acknowledging fault but strongly implied some information had been mishandled. “There is nothing more important to the U.S. military than the trust and goodwill of the American people,” said the statement. “The Department of Defense . . . views with the greatest concern any potential violation of the strict DoD policy governing authorized counter-intelligence efforts.” — Washington Post

The database is intended as a sort of neighborhood watch for the military, collecting information on potential threats to military installations and assets.

According to DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman, the review will consist of:

  • Examining the TALON reporting system to ensure that it fully complies with DoD procedures and U.S. law;
  • Reviewing policies and procedures to make sure that they are being properly applied in respect to any reporting and retention of information on U.S. persons;
  • Examining the TALON database to identify any other information that might be improperly stored in the database, and;
  • Providing all DoD counterintelligence and intelligence personnel with refresher training concerning the laws, policies and procedures governing the collection, reporting and storage of information related to the warning of potential threats to DoD personnel and facilities.

“We have policies and procedures for intelligence and counterintelligence organizations,” Whitman said, “that prohibit the reporting, the processing, or storing of information on individuals or organizations not affiliated with the Department of Defense, except in very limited and narrow circumstances that are defined by the law.”

As I’ve said before, the government needs to be able to protect itself — and us — against actual threats. But we cannot sacrifice our liberty for that protection; otherwise, we will have nothing left worth protecting.