Domestic Spying in the U.S.

There are two bills in Congress that would grant the Pentagon greater rights to spy on Americans in the U.S.:

The Pentagon would be granted new powers to conduct undercover intelligence gathering inside the United States—and then withhold any information about it from the public—under a series of little noticed provisions now winding their way through Congress.

Citing in part the need for “greater latitude” in the war on terror, the Senate Intelligence Committee recently approved broad-ranging legislation that gives the Defense Department a long sought and potentially crucial waiver: it would permit its intelligence agents, such as those working for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), to covertly approach and cultivate “U.S. persons” and even recruit them as informants—without disclosing they are doing so on behalf of the U.S. government.


At the same time, the Senate intelligence panel also included in the bill two other potentially controversial amendments—one that would allow the Pentagon and other U.S. intelligence agencies greater access to federal government databases on U.S. citizens, and another granting the DIA new exemptions from disclosing any “operational files” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Posted on October 13, 2005 at 11:47 AM17 Comments


Davi Ottenheimer October 13, 2005 12:47 PM

“covertly approach and cultivate ‘U.S. persons’ and even recruit them as informants—without disclosing they are doing so on behalf of the U.S. government”

Interesting. I believe this is already the practice of the CIA and FBI, so why extend it to the Defence Department?

What is wrong with Rumsfeld?

“The provision was included in last year’s version of the same bill, but was knocked out after its details were reported by NEWSWEEK and critics charged it could lead to ‘spying’ on U.S. citizens. But late last month, with no public hearings or debate, a similar amendment was put back into the same authorization bill—an annual measure governing U.S. intelligence agencies—at the request of the Pentagon.”

Rumsfeld at it again?

My problem with all this is that the 9/11 commission revealed that most of the intelligence that could have helped the Bush Administration avert disaster was already available.

I hate to quote myself but, “the problem was apparently rooted in the fact that the FBI misinterpreted the law and did not agree with the French definition of terrorism (“Chechen rebels were not a recognized terrorist group under US law at that time”). So the problem is this case was NOT that too much or too little information was available, but that agency simply suffered from a lack of resources that led to unfamiliarity with the law and shoddy analysis of a wealth of information that should have been sufficient to arrest the terrorist(s)…”

Rumsfeld himself regularly gives examples of what incoherent and useless analysis looks like, so one would think his department would focus resources on building better analytic and critical thinking for “defense” rather than amassing the same data already available from extant “intelligence” agencies and further bloating government.

Davi Ottenheimer October 13, 2005 12:55 PM

I guess another way of looking at it is this is a logical progression of Rumsfeld’s Strategic Support Branch into the domestic arena:

“the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Rumsfeld’s written order to end his ‘near total dependence on CIA’ for what is known as human intelligence”

So there you have it, the Pentagon “has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld” complete control over clandestine intelligence gathering operations anywhere in the world, including the US.

The funny thing about people who are inexperienced or bad at security in the corporate environment is that they try to ruthlessly grab power to compensate for failed controls. It’s like someone who can’t swim being thrown into a pool. I think that’s what we’re seeing here — unable to create a balance through use of effective controls, the Pentagon is splashing and crashing into everything around them.

Ben Franklin October 13, 2005 1:06 PM

I’ve said before, and I’m saying it again…

“Those who would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, and will lose both.”

Zwack October 13, 2005 1:07 PM

“our good president”???

Given his current approval ratings, I would question the use of both the words our and good in the first comment.


kashmarek October 13, 2005 1:16 PM

Why should the Defense Department spy on U.S. citizens? Why? Because it is easier than spying on non-U.S. citizens. It is easier than spying on Osama bin Laden’s folks. And, they can collect infinitely more information that can be construed as useful for controlling us. Further, they don’t have to depend on non-military sources (the untrustworthy CIA and FBI). By the way, this is also to complement all that data Rummy gets about school children via No Child Left Behind. And, not to fear (or to fear even more), the CIA and the FBI will now be pushing their own versions of the same bills to do the same so they don’t have to play 2nd fiddle to DOD.

Andre LePlume October 13, 2005 1:34 PM

DoD “can’t” do police work, when that is defined as helping people escape a flood, but they can conduct domestic espionage?

Makes sense.

Jeo October 13, 2005 1:59 PM

Living in Germany, I remember two governments we had, where “…recruit them as informants…” was an every-day practice.
One ended in Germany in 1945 and the other one in East-Germany in 1989…

yagottabekiddinme October 13, 2005 2:36 PM

Great. They can’t effectively manage or competently parse the data they already have, so what they do is immediately demand MORE data to mismanage and/or abuse; together with the right to enlist innocent/ignorant people as “informants” who can conveniently serve as cannon fodder for the blame game when more abuse and incompetence comes to light.

Who the hell do these creeps think they’re kidding?!? They’re drowning in data – and the power to abuse it – already. All the cannon fodder in the universe is not going to save them. They’re on a downbound train – I just hope they don’t take too many innocents with them before the whole thing implodes, as it surely will sooner or later.

havvok October 13, 2005 4:28 PM

“Citing in part the need for “greater latitude??? in the war on terror, the Senate Intelligence Committee recently approved broad-ranging legislation that gives the Defense Department a long sought and potentially crucial waiver: it would permit its intelligence agents, such as those working for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), to covertly approach and cultivate “U.S. persons??? and even recruit them as informants—without disclosing they are doing so on behalf of the U.S. government.”

And not to long ago:
“An ingenious fraudster is believed to be sunning himself on a beach after persuading leading banks to pay him more than €5 million (£3.5 million) in the belief that he was a secret service agent engaged in the fight against terrorist money-laundering.”

Now, this would lead me to beleive that it could be a legally defensible argument that a banker who had actually colluded with someone could argue that they complied because they thought the person was a government agent, there are laws on the books that support the probability, the patriot act gives law enforcement and government agencies sweeping powers, and the banker thought he was complying with the law.

But I guess that would just be a movie plot, and a jury would see right through it and convict the person.


jammit October 13, 2005 4:41 PM

Before our gub’mnt tries something like this, wouldn’t it be wise for them to first remove our right to bear arms? If I put as much spying on the gub’mnt as they want to do to me, I’m quite sure I would be silenced very quickly. What in Gods name are they smoking and why won’t they legalize it?

nate October 13, 2005 5:22 PM

So if this law gets past a Watergate type of event won’t be against the law? The party in the Whitehouse gets to spy on all of its politcal foes without impunity?

Davi Ottenheimer October 13, 2005 7:16 PM

Here’s another good read on the situation…not only does the President believe Rumsfeld should be allowed to light up the military to perform intelligence operations domestically, but he just proposed using the military to be used as domestic police in case of a bird-flu outbreak:

“‘The translation of this is martial law in the United States,’ [associate dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and director of its National Center for Disaster Preparedness] Redlener said.” […] “‘I think the president ought to have all options on the table,’ Bush said, then corrected himself, ‘all assets on the table — to be able to deal with something this significant.'”

Of course he didn’t talk about appointing someone actually qualified to be in charge of the response to pandemic bird flu (e.g. if you thought Brown wasn’t qualified for FEMA), just the need for a military-led response to compensate for the next disasterous federal agency policy. So, in terms of damage to their health and safety, should Americans be more afraid of a bird flu or the current President? Now that would be an interesting risk assessment.

Thomas Sprinkmeier October 14, 2005 2:23 AM


My thoughts exactly.

Comply with authority, and risk being thought a fool, or question authority and risk being thought a terrorist.

At least a fool gets his day in court to and a chance to defend himself.

Skizmo October 14, 2005 2:31 AM

“What is wrong with Rumsfeld?”

He can’t do anything about it, he was born that way. The bigger question is : “What is wrong with America”. Don’t they understand that they have the power… not the state??

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