Pentagon Expanding Its Domestic Surveillance Activity
Fears of Post-9/11 Terrorism Spur Proposals for New Powers
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2005; A06

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and
analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies,
adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic
security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. 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.

The proposals, and other Pentagon steps aimed at improving its ability to
analyze counterterrorism intelligence collected inside the United States,
have drawn complaints from civil liberties advocates and a few members of
Congress, who say the Defense Department's push into domestic collection is
proceeding with little scrutiny by the Congress or the public.

"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."

Lt. Col. Chris Conway, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said that the most
senior Defense Department intelligence officials are aware of the
sensitivities related to their expanded domestic activities. At the same
time, he said, the Pentagon has to have the intelligence necessary to
protect its facilities and personnel at home and abroad.

"In the age of terrorism," Conway said, "the U.S. military and its
facilities are targets, and we have to be prepared within our authorities to
defend them before something happens."

Among the steps already taken by the Pentagon that enhanced its domestic
capabilities was the establishment after 9/11 of Northern Command, or
Northcom, in Colorado Springs, to provide military forces to help in
reacting to terrorist threats in the continental United States. Today,
Northcom's intelligence centers in Colorado and Texas fuse reports from
CIFA, the FBI and other U.S. agencies, and are staffed by 290 intelligence
analysts. That is more than the roughly 200 analysts working for the State
Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and far more than those at
the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition, each of the military services has begun its own post-9/11
collection of domestic intelligence, primarily aimed at gathering data on
potential terrorist threats to bases and other military facilities at home
and abroad. For example, Eagle Eyes is a program set up by the Air Force
Office of Special Investigations, which "enlists the eyes and ears of Air
Force members and citizens in the war on terror," according to the program's
Web site.

The Marine Corps has expanded its domestic intelligence operations and
developed internal policies in 2004 to govern oversight of the "collection,
retention and dissemination of information concerning U.S. persons,"
according to a Marine Corps order approved on April 30, 2004.

The order recognizes that in the post-9/11 era, the Marine Corps
Intelligence Activity will be "increasingly required to perform domestic
missions," and as a result, "there will be increased instances whereby
Marine intelligence activities may come across information regarding U.S.
persons." Among domestic targets listed are people in the United States who
it "is reasonably believed threaten the physical security of Defense
Department employees, installations, operations or official visitors."

Perhaps the prime illustration of the Pentagon's intelligence growth is
CIFA, which remains one of its least publicized intelligence agencies.
Neither the size of its staff, said to be more than 1,000, nor its budget is
public, said Conway, the Pentagon spokesman. The CIFA brochure says the
agency's mission is to "transform" the way counterintelligence is done
"fully utilizing 21st century tools and resources."

One CIFA activity, threat assessments, involves using "leading edge
information technologies and data harvesting," according to a February 2004
Pentagon budget document. This involves "exploiting commercial data" with
the help of outside contractors including White Oak Technologies Inc. of
Silver Spring, and MZM Inc., a Washington-based research organization,
according to the Pentagon document.

For CIFA, counterintelligence involves not just collecting data but also
"conducting activities to protect DoD and the nation against espionage,
other intelligence activities, sabotage, assassinations, and terrorist
activities," its brochure states.

CIFA's abilities would increase considerably under the proposal being
reviewed by the White House, which was made by a presidential commission on
intelligence chaired by retired appellate court judge Laurence H. Silberman
and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.). The commission urged that CIFA
be given authority to carry out domestic criminal investigations and
clandestine operations against potential threats inside the United States.

The Silberman-Robb panel found that because the separate military services
concentrated on investigations within their areas, "no entity views
non-service-specific and department-wide investigations as its primary
responsibility." A 2003 Defense Department directive kept CIFA from engaging
in law enforcement activities such as "the investigation, apprehension, or
detention of individuals suspected or convicted of criminal offenses against
the laws of the United States."

The commission's proposal would change that, giving CIFA "new
counterespionage and law enforcement authorities," covering treason,
espionage, foreign or terrorist sabotage, and even economic espionage. That
step, the panel said, could be taken by presidential order and Pentagon
directive without congressional approval.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the CIFA expansion "is being
studied at the DoD [Defense Department] level," adding that intelligence
director Negroponte would have a say in the matter. A Pentagon spokesman
said, "The [CIFA] matter is before the Hill committees."

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, said in a recent interview that CIFA has performed well in the
past and today has no domestic intelligence collection activities. He was
not aware of moves to enhance its authority.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has not had formal hearings on
CIFA or other domestic intelligence programs, but its staff has been briefed
on some of the steps the Pentagon has already taken. "If a member asks the
chairman" -- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) -- for hearings, "I am sure he would
respond," said Bill Duhnke, the panel's staff director.

Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

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