December 13, 2005
- A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small
group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at
local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had
come to the attention of the U.S. military.
secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists
the Lake Worth meeting as a "threat" and one of more than 1,500
"suspicious incidents" across the country over a recent 10-month period.
peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,"
says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth
is incredible," adds group member Rich Hersh. "It's an example of
paranoia by our government," he says. "We're not doing anything
Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S.
military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country
since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and
counter-military recruitment groups.
think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has
reached too far," says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin.
Department of Defense declined repeated requests by NBC News for an
interview. A spokesman said that all domestic intelligence information
is "properly collected" and involves "protection of Defense Department
installations, interests and personnel." The military has always had a
legitimate "force protection" mission inside the U.S. to
protect its personnel and facilities from potential violence. But the
Pentagon now collects domestic intelligence that goes beyond legitimate
concerns about terrorism or protecting U.S. military installations, say
Four dozen anti-war meetings
DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war
meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any
military installation, post or recruitment center. One "incident"
included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and
Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush
and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned
protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a
planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s
Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat and a
column in the database concludes: "US group exercising constitutional
rights." Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database
were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of
Defense — yet they all remained in the database.
The DOD has strict guidelines (.PDF link), adopted in December 1982, that limit the extent to which they can collect and retain information on U.S. citizens.
the DOD database includes at least 20 references to U.S. citizens or
U.S. persons. Other documents obtained by NBC News show that the
Defense Department is clearly increasing its domestic monitoring
activities. One DOD briefing document stamped "secret" concludes: "[W]e
have noted increased communication and encouragement between protest
groups using the [I]nternet," but no "significant connection" between
incidents, such as "reoccurring instigators at protests" or "vehicle
The increased monitoring disturbs some military observers.
means that they’re actually collecting information about who’s at those
protests, the descriptions of vehicles at those protests," says Arkin.
"On the domestic level, this is unprecedented," he says. "I think it's
the beginning of enormous problems and enormous mischief for the
former senior DOD intelligence officials share his concern. George
Lotz, a 30-year career DOD official and former U.S. Air Force colonel,
held the post of Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
Oversight from 1998 until his retirement last May. Lotz, who recently
began a consulting business to help train and educate intelligence
agencies and improve oversight of their collection process, believes
some of the information the DOD has been collecting is not justified.
Make sure they are not just going crazy
needs to be monitoring to make sure they are just not going crazy and
reporting things on U.S. citizens without any kind of reasoning or
rationale," says Lotz. "I demonstrated with Martin Luther King in 1963
in Washington," he says, "and I certainly didn’t want anybody putting
my name on any kind of list. I wasn’t any threat to the government," he
military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is disturbing
— but familiar — to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence
people never learn," he says. During the Vietnam War, Pyle blew the
whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating
anti-war and civil rights protests when he published an article in the
Washington Monthly in January 1970.
public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed
that revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at
least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents
to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens — many of
them anti-war protestors and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the
investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on
military spying inside the U.S.
Pyle, now a professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, says
some of the information in the database suggests the military may be
dangerously close to repeating its past mistakes.
documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting
investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity.
The military made promises that it would not do this again," he says.
Too much data?
Pentagon observers worry that in the effort to thwart the next 9/11,
the U.S. military is now collecting too much data, both undermining its
own analysis efforts by forcing analysts to wade through a mountain of
rubble in order to obtain potentially key nuggets of intelligence and
entangling U.S. citizens in the U.S. military’s expanding and quiet
collection of domestic threat data.
years ago, the Defense Department directed a little known agency,
Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, to establish and "maintain
a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related
to potential terrorist threats directed against the Department of
Defense." Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz also
established a new reporting mechanism known as a TALON or Threat and
Local Observation Notice report. TALONs now provide "non-validated
domestic threat information" from military units throughout the United
States that are collected and retained in a CIFA database. The reports
include details on potential surveillance of military bases, stolen
vehicles, bomb threats and planned anti-war protests. In the program’s
first year, the agency received more than 5,000 TALON reports. The
database obtained by NBC News is generated by Counterintelligence Field
is becoming the superpower of data mining within the U.S. national
security community. Its "operational and analytical records" include
"reports of investigation, collection reports, statements of
individuals, affidavits, correspondence, and other documentation
pertaining to investigative or analytical efforts" by the DOD and other
U.S. government agencies to identify terrorist and other threats. Since
March 2004, CIFA has awarded at least $33 million in contracts to
corporate giants Lockheed Martin, Unisys Corporation, Computer Sciences
Corporation and Northrop Grumman to develop databases that comb through
classified and unclassified government data, commercial information and
Internet chatter to help sniff out terrorists, saboteurs and spies.
of the CIFA-funded database projects being developed by Northrop
Grumman and dubbed "Person Search," is designed "to provide
comprehensive information about people of interest." It will include
the ability to search government as well as commercial databases.
Another project, "The Insider Threat Initiative," intends to "develop
systems able to detect, mitigate and investigate insider threats," as
well as the ability to "identify and document normal and abnormal
activities and 'behaviors,’" according to the Computer Sciences Corp.
contract. A separate CIFA contract with a small Virginia-based defense
contractor seeks to develop methods "to track and monitor activities of suspect individuals."
military has the right to protect its installations, and to protect its
recruiting services," says Pyle. "It does not have the right to
maintain extensive files on lawful protests of their recruiting
activities, or of their base activities," he argues.
harm in my view is that these people ought to be allowed to
demonstrate, to hold a banner, to peacefully assemble whether they
agree or disagree with the government’s policies," the former DOD
intelligence official says.
Tussing, director of Homeland Defense and Security Issues at the U.S.
Army War College and a former Marine, says "there is very little that
could justify the collection of domestic intelligence by the Unites
States military. If we start going down this slippery slope it would be
too easy to go back to a place we never want to see again," he says.
Some of the targets of the U.S. military’s recent collection efforts say they have already gone too far.
"It's absolute paranoia — at the highest levels of our government," says Hersh of The Truth Project.
mean, we're based here at the Quaker Meeting House," says Truth Project
member Marie Zwicker, "and several of us are Quakers."
Defense Department refused to comment on how it obtained information on
the Lake Worth meeting or why it considers a dozen or so anti-war
activists a "threat."
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