The Department of Defense is seeking additional legal authority to spy inside the US. They want to expand personnel and funding for an agency called Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) created three years ago. The White House tried to push a proposal through the Senate Intelligence Committee and several other unspecified fronts. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform the CIFA from an office that coordinates efforts within military branches into one that instigates, investigates and prosecutes crimes within US borders including US citizens. Crimes investigated include economic espionage, ecological espionage, treason, terrorism or sabotage.
The Pentagon has also pushed legislation that would create an exception to the Privacy Act. They want free flowing data access between the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence services. Backers to these measures say this would help find terror threats such as Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Civil liberties advocates as well as a few members of congress are complaining these and similar proposals are proceeding with little comment from congress or knowledge by the public at large.
Senator Ron Wyden has requested Defense Intelligence Agency officers should not be allowed to hide the fact that they work for the government when seeking intelligence information. He believes more hearings should be held. Advocates are concerned information would be shared between intelligence agencies about people who have committed no crimes and have no previous connection to terrorism or espionage.
This removes one of the few privacy protections against sharing of secret dossiers on Americans by government intelligence agencies. A Pentagon Spokesman said 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.
Currently the CIFA has 290 intelligence analysts in the North Command or "Northcom". They coordinate reports from the FBI, CIA and other US agencies. In addition each branch of the military has already started domestic intelligence programs reportedly aimed at gathering information. The Air force has a group called Eagle Eye, the Marine Corps has specific policies regarding techniques of "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 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