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Pentagon Seeks OK to Spy on Americans [
Intelligence: The Pentagon-Spying in America?
By Michael Isikoff
June 21 Issue
June 21 issue - Last February, two Army counterintelligence agents showed up at the University of Texas law school and demanded to see the roster from a conference on Islamic law held a few days earlier. Their reason: they were trying to track down students who the agents claimed had been asking "suspicious" questions. "I felt like I was in 'Law & Order'," said one student after being grilled by one of the agents. The incident provoked a brief campus uproar, and the Army later admitted the agents had exceeded their authority. But if the Pentagon has its way, the Army may not have to make such amends in the future. Without any public hearing or debate, NEWSWEEK has learned, Defense officials recently slipped a provision into a bill before Congress that could vastly expand the Pentagon's ability to gather intelligence inside the United States, including recruiting citizens as informants.
Ever since the 1970s, when Army intel agents were caught snooping on antiwar protesters, military intel agencies have operated under tight restrictions inside the United States. But the new provision, approved in closed session last month by the Senate Intelligence Committee, would eliminate one big restriction: that they comply with the Privacy Act, a Watergate-era law that requires government officials seeking information from a resident to disclose who they are and what they want the information for. The CIA always has been exempt-although by law it isn't supposed to operate inside the United States. The new provision would now extend the same exemption to Pentagon agencies such as the Defense Intelligence Agency-so they can help track terrorists. A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the provision would allow military intel agents to "approach potential sources and collect personal information from them" without disclosing they work for the government. The justification: "Current counterterrorism operations," the report explains, which require "greater latitude ... both overseas and within the United States." DIA officials say they mainly want the provision so they can more easily question American businessmen and college students who travel abroad. But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman concedes the provision will also be helpful in investigating suspected terrorist threats to military bases and contractors inside the United States. "It's a new world we live in," he says. "We have to do what is necessary for force protection." Among those pushing for the provision, sources say, were officials at northcom, the new Colorado-based command set up by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to oversee "homeland defense." Pentagon lawyers insist agents will still be legally barred from domestic "law enforcement." But watchdog groups see a potentially alarming "mission creep." "This... is giving them the authority to spy on Americans," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a group frequently critical of the war on terror. "And it's all been done with no public discussion, in the dark of night."
Pentagon Seeks OK to Spy on Americans
By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor
Thursday 17 June 2004
New bill would allow Pentagon to gather intelligence on US residents without their knowledge.
Newsweek reports that the US Department of Defense is looking for the right to gather information from, and about, Americans, without having to tell them that they are doing so. "Without a public hearing or debate," the news magazine reports, "Defense officials recently slipped a provision into a bill before Congress that could vastly expand the Pentagon's ability to gather intelligence inside the United States, including recruiting citizens as informants."
Currently all military intelligence organizations must comply with the Privacy Act. The act is a Watergate-era law that requires that any government official who is seeking information from a resident of the US disclose who they are and why they are seeking the information. But Newsweek reports that last month the Senate Intelligence Committee, in closed session, added the provision that would exempt the Pentagon from this restriction. The bill is S.2386, in specific Sec.502 - Defense intelligence exemption from certain Privacy Act requirements.
Among those pushing for the bill was "NORTHCOM," the new North American command set up by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Colorado. NORTHCOM's mission is to over see "homeland defense."
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the provision would allow military intel agents to "approach potential sources and collect personal information from them" without disclosing they work for the government. The justification: "Current counterterrorism operations," the report explains, which require "greater latitude ... both overseas and within the United States." ... Pentagon lawyers insist agents will still be legally barred from domestic "law enforcement." But watchdog groups see a potentially alarming "mission creep." "This... is giving them the authority to spy on Americans," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a group frequently critical of the war on terror. "And it's all been done with no public discussion, in the dark of night."
Spencer Ackerman, of The New Republic, writes on how the operation of the office of undersecretary of defense for intelligence in March of 2003, currently filled by the controversial Stephen Cambone, has turned into a power struggle for the control of intelligence between the Pentagon and the CIA.
Currently, all intelligence agencies, even military ones, fall under the titular control of the director of central intelligence [ the soon-to-be retired, George Tenet. But the creation of the new undersecretary position, Mr. Ackerman writes, has prompted intelligence observers to suggest that Mr. Rumsfeld is trying to create a new center of gravity for the US intelligence community in the Pentagon.
The Pentagon's increasing assertiveness on intelligence matters is already cause for concern, as Abu Ghraib shows. But there's a broader issue beyond the scandal. The rise of a new intelligence czar at the Pentagon sets the stage for another round of bruising bureaucratic turf wars between the Department of Defense and the CIA [ one with large implications for the war on terrorism [ at a time when Langley, weakened by George Tenet's abrupt departure last week, is ill-prepared to do battle with Rumsfeld and his deputies.
Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, writing in the Washington Times, argues that it would be a mistake for President Bush to allow Rumsfeld and Mr. Cambone to gain control of US intelligence.
If in fact [Rumsfeld]and his military intelligence team, headed by [Cambone], are able to take advantage of the leadership uncertainty at the CIA, and if Mr. Bush allows this to happen or encourages it by naming a military person to replace Mr. Tenet, then the goal of a truly independent foreign intelligence apparatus to serve the president objectively [ a goal the Defense Department has resisted for 55 years [ will be unceremoniously laid to rest. The mistakes of the past will be, sadly, then repeated.
The Pentagon came under scrutiny in several other areas this week.
Jim Lobe, a longtime critic of the neoconservatives within and outside the Pentagon, writes in the Asia Times that although plans to turn Iraq into a pro-US base in the heart of the Arab world have been "badly set back," the Pentagon is busy "reinventing" US forces worldwide as "globocops." The repositioning of US military forces would make the US "capable of pre-empting any possible threat to its interests at a moment's notice." Mr. Lobe writes that the new deployment seem to aim for the creation of a "Pax Americana."
In that respect, the strategy is an update of the controversial 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance written under the auspices of current Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser, Lewis "Scooter" Libby [ both of whom played key roles in driving the Bush administration to war in Iraq.
On Wednesday the Associated Press reports that the Pentagon admitted that it had "improperly" held an Iraqi prisoner (a suspected member of the terrorist group Ansar al Islam) in detention for seven months without assigning him a prisoner number or reporting his presence to the International Red Cross. The New York Times reports that Rumsfeld issued the order to "hide" the prisoner at the request of Tenet. This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were not reported in order to keep the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."
Finally, The Age of Melbourne, Australia reports Thursday that the Pentagon may have wasted "billions of dollars" in Iraq because of a lack of planning and poor oversight.
David Walker, head of the General Accounting Office (GAO), has told a congressional panel that Defense Department planners failed to determine adequately the needs of US soldiers in Iraq or effectively oversee the contracts worth billions of dollars that they had issued. While Pentagon officials blamed any mistakes on the pressure of the war's early days, the investigators said they had found ongoing waste in the contracting process a year after the invasion. Mr Walker speculated that the waste could amount to "billions".
Mr. Walker's report particulary singled out the military's contract with the Houston-based oil services multinational Halliburton as a "particularly egregious example of poor oversight by the government and overcharging by the company." The Age reports that Pentagon auditors believe the company has been billing for millions of meals never served to US troops [the GAO reports says Halliburton billed the US government for 36 percent more meals than it served] and recommended withholding $186 million US until the dispute is settled.
But The New York Times reports that Halliburton says it mistakenly overbilled for only 19 percent more meals than it actually served and blamed the problem on the "chaos of the occupation."