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MSNBC: Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?


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Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?

Secret database obtained by NBC News tracks ‘suspicious’ domestic groups

NBC VIDEO

• Pentagon spying on citizens?

Dec. 13: A secret Pentagon database indicates the U.S. military is collecting information on American peace activists and monitoring protests against the Iraq war. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.

Nightly News

Updated: 7:51 p.m. ET Dec. 13, 2005

Lisa Myers

Senior investigative correspondent

WASHINGTON - 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.

A 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.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”

The 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.

LINK TO SECRET DOD DATABASE, EDITED FOR CLARITY

Department of Defense database listing domestic ‘threats’

“I think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has reached too far,” says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin.

The 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 critics.

Four dozen anti-war meetings

The 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.

The 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.

Still, 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 nternet,” but no “significant connection” between incidents, such as “reoccurring instigators at protests” or “vehicle descriptions.”

The increased monitoring disturbs some military observers.

“It 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 military.”

Some 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

“Somebody 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 adds.

The military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is disturbing — but familiar — to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer.

“Some 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.

The 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.

But 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.

“The 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?

Some 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.

Two 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 Activity.

CIFA 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.

One 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.”

“The 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.

Lotz agrees.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Nothing new here, this has been done for decades. Instead of looking at the real threat, like...oh I dunno, finding Osama Bin Landen, we are wasting our resources by spying on Anti-War groups...TREASON TREASON TREASON :silly:

-Grant

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In general, I can guarantee you that foreign agents continually conduct intelligence gathering missions around/on our military bases -- and our military Counter-Intelligence folks are tasked with stopping them.

From what I read, this database is a good thing. From what I read, the anti-war activists, while noted in the database -- were cleared as a threat in the database, as well. That means that CI folks that make note of them in the future (for instance protesting at a base, or at a recruitment center) can immediately ascertain the group is not a threat -- and continue to look for the actual bad guys.

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I have no problem with this. So what if your on a list somewhere that says your "a passive protestor" instead of an aggressive protestor.

Partisian violence in protesting is at a disgusting level. Take the tookie williams protests. While they were generally passive, groups did drive off any pro-capital punishment activists. That is hardly excercising free speach, that is bullying people who disagree with you. I think it is very important for us domestically to be able to identify which protestors are likely to insight violence and cause obstruction of activity to better aid in controlling protests so they dont escalate the demonstration into violence.

This practice has been used by the world trade organization for years, cause they have had a problem with violent "protestors" mingling with legitimate activists.

I know this is difficult to believe, but not every anti-war protesting group out there is protesting cause they are pacifists. My point is that knowing if the group is passive or violent is a good thing for crowd control purposes. Also, using the technology mentioned the article they could scan the crowd and visually identify people who are apt to use violent practices and isolate them before trouble starts. This would allow the demonstrations to continue peacefully before they get violent and have to be forcably dispersed. This is better for us, cause it doesnt matter to people like you that a demonstration was dispersed cause it turned violent, all you will read and spread is that a demonstration against the US was dispersed to supress the message. I would rather the demonstrations to peacefull and civil untill its conclusion.

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In general, I can guarantee you that foreign agents continually conduct intelligence gathering missions around/on our military bases -- and our military Counter-Intelligence folks are tasked with stopping them.

From what I read, this database is a good thing. From what I read, the anti-war activists, while noted in the database -- were cleared as a threat in the database, as well. That means that CI folks that make note of them in the future (for instance protesting at a base, or at a recruitment center) can immediately ascertain the group is not a threat -- and continue to look for the actual bad guys.

I still think this is nonsense, the government/Military has been doing this for decades. This opens the door up to envasion of Privacy and some of the anti- american provisions in the patriot act, such as sneak and peak and warrents without probable cause...but wheres the oversight?, this is done secretly, hell they could be spying on this board for all we know...why arent conservative groups on this list as well?

-Grant

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The United States military was never supposed to be able to do this. And our intelligence gathering departments are already strained as it is, so why not add a ton of new information about peaceful protesters? Now I do not think we are on the brink of military rule, but any power that is taken away from Civilian government has to be fought claw, tooth, and nail. If people here have problems with unelected Judges messing around with the Constitution, they should also have serious reservations about military officials spying on us. Be consistent guys ;).

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I have no problem with this. So what if your on a list somewhere that says your "a passive protestor" instead of an aggressive protestor.

Partisian violence in protesting is at a disgusting level. Take the tookie williams protests. While they were generally passive, groups did drive off any pro-capital punishment activists. That is hardly excercising free speach, that is bullying people who disagree with you. I think it is very important for us domestically to be able to identify which protestors are likely to insight violence and cause obstruction of activity to better aid in controlling protests so they dont escalate the demonstration into violence.

This practice has been used by the world trade organization for years, cause they have had a problem with violent "protestors" mingling with legitimate activists.

I know this is difficult to believe, but not every anti-war protesting group out there is protesting cause they are pacifists. My point is that knowing if the group is passive or violent is a good thing for crowd control purposes. Also, using the technology mentioned the article they could scan the crowd and visually identify people who are apt to use violent practices and isolate them before trouble starts. This would allow the demonstrations to continue peacefully before they get violent and have to be forcably dispersed. This is better for us, cause it doesnt matter to people like you that a demonstration was dispersed cause it turned violent, all you will read and spread is that a demonstration against the US was dispersed to supress the message. I would rather the demonstrations to peacefull and civil untill its conclusion.

Ummmmm, when the military is spying on QUAKERS for anti-war protests, then they are going to far. When they are using the rules to spy on anyone who is not like them, that is a totalitarian state. This has nothing to do with the military as far as I'm concerned, it has to do with the constitution, and the freedom of assembly is one of the rights guaranteed to us in our constitution. You people remember the First Amendment right?

I am just completely astonished at how many "conservatives" who are supposed to be strict "constitutionalists" have a complete disdain for the freedoms our constitution grants us as citizens. It's is so far outside of the realm of rational thought it is mindblowingly obtuse.

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Ummmmm, when the military is spying on QUAKERS for anti-war protests, then they are going to far. When they are using the rules to spy on anyone who is not like them, that is a totalitarian state. This has nothing to do with the military as far as I'm concerned, it has to do with the constitution, and the freedom of assembly is one of the rights guaranteed to us in our constitution. You people remember the First Amendment right?

I am just completely astonished at how many "conservatives" who are supposed to be strict "constitutionalists" have a complete disdain for the freedoms our constitution grants us as citizens. It's is so far outside of the realm of rational thought it is mindblowingly obtuse.

Everyone is still free to assemble. It's just that they may be being recorded :laugh:

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Totally absurd aside coming....

I don't know why, but the title of this thread made me remember something I'd totally forgotten about. In '91, about 30 days before the ground war kicked off, when my Hawaiian Marine company was dug-in about 5 miles south of the Kuwait border, me and about 6 other Lieutenants saw our very first unmanned drone fly over.

We'd been in the desert since a week after Saddam rolled into Kuwait. We were very very tired of waiting. And very bored.

We knew some military internet geek back in Riyahd was looking at real-time video images of us as that little noisy drone flew over. None of us said a word.

And then, simultaneously, we all bent over and dropped our trousers to our ankles.

Damn that felt good. I still wonder what that poor SOB thought when he figured out what he was looking at. Luckily, drones back then weren't armed.

Talk about your target of opportunity. :)

Continue your discussion gents.....

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Totally absurd aside coming....

I don't know why, but the title of this thread made me remember something I'd totally forgotten about. In '91, about 30 days before the ground war kicked off, when my Hawaiian Marine company was dug-in about 5 miles south of the Kuwait border, me and about 6 other Lieutenants saw our very first unmanned drone fly over.

We'd been in the desert since a week after Saddam rolled into Kuwait. We were very very tired of waiting. And very bored.

We knew some military internet geek back in Riyahd was looking at real-time video images of us as that little noisy drone flew over. None of us said a word.

And then, simultaneously, we all bent over and dropped our trousers to our ankles.

Damn that felt good. I still wonder what that poor SOB thought when he figured out what he was looking at. Luckily, drones back then weren't armed.

Talk about your target of opportunity. :)

Continue your discussion gents.....

Hate to one up ya, but when the Bosnia pizza delivery mission was over, we still had Predators at the base in Hungary. Some pilot types flew it up to Lake Balitan, a VERY European-type lake. Some rather, say we say, interesting imagery came back from the lake of the indiginous female population in all their glory ;)

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Hate to one up ya, but when the Bosnia pizza delivery mission was over, we still had Predators at the base in Hungary. Some pilot types flew it up to Lake Balitan, a VERY European-type lake. Some rather, say we say, interesting imagery came back from the lake of the indiginous female population in all their glory ;)

In all their glory? You should have seen my bare *** in 1991. :)

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Part of the issue I see with this is mission creep. What starts off as intelligence gathering on pontential threats can evolve into another goal. This happened during the 60's with potential security threats developing into political threats by the Feds and the military. Some citizens, especially those in the miltiary, would prefer to think that such missions always have good intentions, but especially without oversight or a lack of command and control, a database of citizens can easily develop into a mechanism of the State keeping an eye on its citizens. And that, to me, ain't very American.

When you hear of a government keeping citizen activity databases, tabs on civilians, and infiltrating citizen groups, wouldn't you at first think of the Soviets? Is this what we are wanting our nation to develop into in this day and age?

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You see some weird sh*t in Europe. Let me tell you...

When I lived in Italy we use to always go swimming at Lake Barcis near Aviano AB in the summer. One day about 10 of us were up there partying and having a good time when off in the distance we see two people in a canoe paddling in our direction. We didn't think anything of it at first but as they got closer something didn't look right about them. One of me friends said that it looked like they were very pale. When they were close enough to see clearly it was two dudes butt naked covered in white powder. Damn Fruits...

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Part of the issue I see with this is mission creep. What starts off as intelligence gathering on pontential threats can evolve into another goal. This happened during the 60's with potential security threats developing into political threats by the Feds and the military. Some citizens, especially those in the miltiary, would prefer to think that such missions always have good intentions, but especially without oversight or a lack of command and control, a database of citizens can easily develop into a mechanism of the State keeping an eye on its citizens. And that, to me, ain't very American.

When you hear of a government keeping citizen activity databases, tabs on civilians, and infiltrating citizen groups, wouldn't you at first think of the Soviets? Is this what we are wanting our nation to develop into in this day and age?

So you'd rather we knew nothing about the dregs of society, like pictured here at Tookie "I'm innocent" Williams protest?

http://www.zombietime.com/tookie/

THese are the same hippies that protest at military bases, they just change their signs. Note the International Socialists Organiszation sign. Not far from the World Workers Party, which is die hard commies.

It's well know that these organizations and their predecessors were infiltrated by the old Soviet Union in the past. What's to say they're not penetrated by the ChiComs or Islamofacists now? Burying your head in the sand is what lead to 9/11.

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So you'd rather we knew nothing about let the dregs of society, like pictured here at Tookie "I'm innocent" Williams protest?

http://www.zombietime.com/tookie/

THese are the same hippies that protest at military bases, they just change their signs. Note the International Socialists Organiszation sign. Not far from the World Workers Party, which is die hard commies.

It's well know that these organizations and their predecessors were infiltrated by the old Soviet Union in the past. What's to say they're not penetrated by the ChiComs or Islamofacists now? Burying your head in the sand is what lead to 9/11.

Ok, so just to be clear on this, you ARE a big brother/big government supporter that wants spies in civil society?

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Ok, so just to be clear on this, you ARE a big brother/big government supporter that wants spies in civil society?

Fact is, as JPillian pointed out, if you protest outside a military installation, you're going to have your picture taken and you're going to be checked out. That 's the job of what the Air Force calls the OSI, Office of Special Investigation. It has other names in other branches, but they all have the same function, force protection.

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Fact is, as JPillian pointed out, if you protest outside a military installation, you're going to have your picture taken and you're going to be checked out. That 's the job of what the Air Force calls the OSI, Office of Special Investigation. It has other names in other branches, but they all have the same function, force protection.

Well, if that is ALL they do, then I have no problem with it...

"Dec. 13: A secret Pentagon database indicates the U.S. military is collecting information on American peace activists and monitoring protests against the Iraq war. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.Nightly News"

However, it looks like they are mining a lot more information than mere pictures. I am pretty sure that part of the right to hold meetings is garaunteed anonymity from the government, but if someone can find me a law or constitutional thing against that I'll drop that argument.

The issue is in terms of scope, and it looks like the military has overstepped its bounds.

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