Giving the U.S. Military the Power to Conduct Domestic Surveillance

More nonsense in the name of defending ourselves from terrorism:

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

The police and the military have fundamentally different missions. The police protect citizens. The military attacks the enemy. When you start giving police powers to the military, citizens start looking like the enemy.

We gain a lot of security because we separate the functions of the police and the military, and we will all be much less safer if we allow those functions to blur. This kind of thing worries me far more than terrorist threats.

Posted on November 28, 2005 at 2:11 PM • 39 Comments

Comments

Milan IlnyckyjNovember 28, 2005 2:29 PM

If the armed forces are to take over roles from law enforcement, or complement law enforcement agencies within those roles, they must be subject to the same expectations of accountability as civilian agencies would be. Without openness, it is impossible for citizens to assess the desirability or justifiability of measures being put in place for their benefit: a serious erosion of the democratic system and a situation that would risk making poor trade-offs between increased security and other values.

Eric K.November 28, 2005 2:44 PM

Milan:

True, yet at the same time false.

Yes, *if* the military were to be given such roles, they should out of necessity be given the same oversight, but making such a statement is essentially giving in and accepting the situation and trying to put limits on it that would validate it.

This is a situation that should not be accepted and validated. This is a situation that should not exist in the first place. No amount of openness can make up for it.

In fact, it's *exactly* this sort of situation that our Founding Fathers sought to protect our citizens from by creating protection in the Constitution for the citizens, permitting them the right to keep and bear arms, not only to protect themselves against foreign enemies, but to ensure themselves protection from the *government itself*, since *that* was a situation first and foremost in the minds of those who organized a rebellion against an oppressive government.

Our founding fathers not only sought to create a new nation free from the oppression of the British government of the time, but also sought to protect themselves from being victimized by the new government they were creating.

If George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson were alive *today*, they'd probably be arrested as terrorists by the very government they were instrumental in founding 229 years ago.

So much has changed.

WLWEsqNovember 28, 2005 2:57 PM

The real question is, where's the outrage? The WP is hardly a fringe newspaper, it has a healthy circulation.

Why aren't people complaining to their representatives in Congress?

We will lose only as much liberty as we're willing to give up without a fight.

Sad, but true....

StephenNovember 28, 2005 3:03 PM

@WLWEsq
"Why aren't people complaining to their representatives in Congress?"

Because we're vastly outnumbered by constitutents who refuse to hear any arguments whatsoever against a plan that claims to "increase homeland security".

Milan IlnyckyjNovember 28, 2005 3:11 PM

@Erik K.

I agree with you.

A relationship has evolved during the entire history of Canada and the United States between government, law enforcement, laws, and the courts. That relationship exists to both maintain order and protect the rule of law and the rights of individuals. While that balance is affected by the danger that exists of terrorist attack, it must be understood that legitimate concerns about such an occurrence do not supercede the importance of maintaining a power structure that has protected the citizens of North America for more than a century.

Protection of the individual from unreasonable or arbitrary power – in the hands of government and its agents – is a crucial part of the individual security of all citizens in democratic states. While terrorists have shown themselves to be capable of causing enormous harm with modest resources, the very enormity state power means that it can do great harm through errors or by failing to create and maintain proper checks on authority. There has been a worrisome trend in North America of late to empower the armed forces to intervene in traditionally civilian areas of jurisdiction, where they have sometimes been able to operate with less legal and media oversight than would have been expected of law enforcement officials. If the superior resources of the military are to be put to use, it must take place within a framework that accepts the supremacy of law and democratically elected governments. Such military participation should also serve as a fallback to civilian mechanisms, rather than the default means for dealing with dangerous situations.

Y.L.November 28, 2005 3:30 PM

I think the problem is that people are scared. No one wants to their children dead. I am personally willing to give up some privacy if it will save lives. The problem is that once the crisis is over, the government will not bother to remove those restrictive laws. We still have laws desgined to protect us during the Cold War era even though U.S. and Russia are no longer enemies (crypto export laws, for example). What they should do is to include a short time limit on those laws (a year or so), after which the must be renewed.

Y.L.November 28, 2005 3:31 PM

I think the problem is that people are scared. No one wants to their children dead. I am personally willing to give up some privacy if it will save lives. The problem is that once the crisis is over, the government will not bother to remove those restrictive laws. We still have laws desgined to protect us during the Cold War era even though U.S. and Russia are no longer enemies (crypto export laws, for example). What they should do is to include a short time limit on those laws (a year or so), after which they must be renewed.

ordajNovember 28, 2005 3:35 PM

@WLWEsq

"Why aren't people complaining to their representatives in Congress?"

Because they only listen to the lobbysits that are in the halls right next to them every day with suitcases of money.

Representative democracy is clearly representative of special interests.

Richard BraakmanNovember 28, 2005 3:58 PM

Terminology error!

"special interests" are women, blacks, poor people, and similar groups making up the majority of the population.

Lobbyists with suitcases full of money are the _national_ interest.

Please keep them straight.

LygerNovember 28, 2005 5:17 PM

@WLWEsq

"Why aren't people complaining to their representatives in Congress?"

Because most of them, like ordaj, believe that they are helpless and voiceless, so they rely on hoping for things to work out for the best. Lobbyists understand that with the resources at their command, they can influence public opionion through spinning the issues in a certain way. Since even with a wealth of information at their fingertips, people are used to be being told what the truth is, they tend to accept it, unless it really flies in the face of their personal reality, or they are otherwise emotionally invested in some other truth. Since, as Y.L. points out, people are also afraid, they are invested in the belief that these new powers will make them safer.

The alternative is a cynical government that's just as hostile as the supposed enemy. People who don't want to believe that just hunker down and hope for the best.

Pat CahalanNovember 28, 2005 5:24 PM

@Y.L.

> I am personally willing to give up some privacy if it will save lives.

To put it bluntly, I'm not so willing. In order for me (personally) to be willing to give up privacy for security, you'd have to convince me that giving up privacy would result in security, the resulting trade off is suitable, *and* that the gain cannot be realized through other means.

It's very easy to say, "This particular action will save lives", but without analyzing the possible consequences of the particular action, or qualifying the phrase "save lives", you're in danger of surrendering quite a bit for little gain.

> The problem is that once the crisis is over, the government will not bother to
> remove those restrictive laws.

Absolutely.

> What they should do is to include a short time limit on those laws (a year or so),
> after which they must be renewed.

Unfortunately, this tactic doesn't work either, since the renewal can be a rubber-stamp affair. The Romans were one of the first to come up with this idea... you had two consuls, and in a time of great crisis one of them could be appointed dictator by ruling of the senate. He would have absolute power until the crisis was over, at which point he would abdicate his dictatorship and become a consul again ("dictator" originally had a positive connotation!) This works great if the dictator gives up the power, not so great otherwise.

Richard VeryardNovember 28, 2005 5:48 PM

What do you think the American military is doing in Iraq if not protecting Iraqi citizens? In an asymmetric world, the concept of deperimeterization applies just as much to national/international security as to computer security. Of coures we need proper governance and oversight, but we cannot put the clock back to a simpler world in which police and military work could be cleanly separated.

CynicNovember 28, 2005 5:55 PM

@Richard Veryard

"Protecting Iraqi citizens?" Can you even say that with a straight face after so much evidence of torture, the indiscriminate use of weapons in civilian areas, and a grossly irresponsible lack of post-occupation planning has surfaced?

acNovember 28, 2005 6:04 PM

@Richard

Actually the example of American military purportedly assuming a police role in Iraq is a great example of why the job of policing should be left to police. I guess the difference is whether or not you think American forces are endangering more Iraqi civilians than they are protecting.

A clear delineation between police power and military power is not an anachronism from a simpler time--it's the solution to some of the very problems we've caused by allowing that line to blur.

Pat CahalanNovember 28, 2005 6:25 PM

@ ac

> Actually the example of American military purportedly assuming a police role in Iraq
> is a great example of why the job of policing should be left to police.

I agree.

There are non-subtle and dramatic differences between the missions of military and police institutions that lead to fundamental incompatibilities in both training methods and effective strategies by personnel in live deployment.

Cops aren't soldiers, and should not be armed like soldiers or trained like soldiers. Soldiers aren't cops, and shouldn't be expected to effectively police a population. Period.

Roy Owens`November 28, 2005 6:53 PM

@Y.L.

"The problem is that once the crisis is over ..."

You're an optimist, not a realist. The crisis will never be over.

The War on Terrorism scares most Americans into meek acquiescence to anything the government decides to do, and they don't want to know the details, or even the broad strokes in most case. Meanwhile the same war stokes the Islamists' fight against the infidels, helping their recruitment, encouraging suicide both in bombing and in fighting to the death, enraging them through cultural insults by subjecting innocent civilians to the most vile actions they know, encouraging contributors to be generous -- or at least to pay their 'religious tax' (Or else!).

Remember East versus West? In the West, World Communism was the great menace to be defeated. Well, not really. Merely to be kept at bay, exactly at bay, not really hurt in any way. It wouldn't do to have a weakened enemy. We needed our enemy strong and mighty and implacable and relentless. It would be just like a hot war but without actually warring. A 'cold war', you could say. A pretend war. In Communist countries, the boogieman role was played by Yankee Imperialism.

North Korea and South Korea played each other's bad guy.

Communism later failed as a global boogieman. (Remember Nixon's love affair with Communist China?)

Now we have International Terrorism. It's here, it's there, it's everywhere -- wherever you need it to be, whenever you need it to be there.

The UK has copied the game from the US, and now Australia is running a game of their own. (They are making Christmas Island their Guantanamo.) I suspect Russia has their own game going, more on the sly than openly.

Most of the rest of the world is deeply alarmed by all this. They have little choice but to band together to form an anti-anti-terrorism community, opposing the war on terrorism.

It continues to get interesting.

Roy Owens`November 28, 2005 6:53 PM

@Y.L.

"The problem is that once the crisis is over ..."

You're an optimist, not a realist. The crisis will never be over.

The War on Terrorism scares most Americans into meek acquiescence to anything the government decides to do, and they don't want to know the details, or even the broad strokes in most case. Meanwhile the same war stokes the Islamists' fight against the infidels, helping their recruitment, encouraging suicide both in bombing and in fighting to the death, enraging them through cultural insults by subjecting innocent civilians to the most vile actions they know, encouraging contributors to be generous -- or at least to pay their 'religious tax' (Or else!).

Remember East versus West? In the West, World Communism was the great menace to be defeated. Well, not really. Merely to be kept at bay, exactly at bay, not really hurt in any way. It wouldn't do to have a weakened enemy. We needed our enemy strong and mighty and implacable and relentless. It would be just like a hot war but without actually warring. A 'cold war', you could say. A pretend war. In Communist countries, the boogieman role was played by Yankee Imperialism.

North Korea and South Korea played each other's bad guy.

Communism later failed as a global boogieman. (Remember Nixon's love affair with Communist China?)

Now we have International Terrorism. It's here, it's there, it's everywhere -- wherever you need it to be, whenever you need it to be there.

The UK has copied the game from the US, and now Australia is running a game of their own. (They are making Christmas Island their Guantanamo.) I suspect Russia has their own game going, more on the sly than openly.

Most of the rest of the world is deeply alarmed by all this. They have little choice but to band together to form an anti-anti-terrorism community, opposing the war on terrorism.

It continues to get interesting.

old foolNovember 28, 2005 7:20 PM

@Bruce
"The military attacks the enemy."

The military also has to defend its own assets/resources. That presumably includes its own national territory and citizens, but also brings up definitional problems, such as "What is our territory?" and "Who is a citizen?"

For example, if the legislature passed laws that certain kinds or classes of people were not citizens, then it would be legal to deny them any defense, any rights, any due process, etc. Or consider if certain judgements could be issued that stripped a person of citizenship, and those became very easy to issue, were summary, could not be challenged, etc.

And as we've seen, there is already a limbo called "enemy combatant" that is neither citizen nor soldier. Abandon hope all ye who enter there.


Bruce SchneierNovember 28, 2005 9:40 PM

"Huh? The police don't protect citizens. It's not in their job description."

Yeah, I know. I don't have the quote exactly right. It's not mine originally; I read it somewhere. And I can't remember the exact formulation, but it was better in the original.

Anyone?

Jack FoyNovember 29, 2005 2:14 AM

Bruce --

The phrasing as you give it is almost an exact quote from the new "Battlestar Galactica"; I don't know if that's where you picked it up, or if both quotes come from a common source.

Commander Adama, in the episode "Bastille Day":
"There's a reason you separate the military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

Arturo QuirantesNovember 29, 2005 2:25 AM

@ Jack Foy

And, if you've seen Star Wars, you know what happened when the Prez seizes too much power in the name of fighting the republic's enemies.

denisNovember 29, 2005 4:16 AM

@Y.L.:

"What they should do is to include a short time limit on those laws (a year or so), after which they must be renewed."

Heh heh heh. :) The income tax was introduced by the UK to help fight the Napoleonic wars as just such a time limited tax.

It is being regularly renewed to this day.

denisNovember 29, 2005 4:20 AM

"Income Tax was the first tax in British history to be levied directly on people's earnings. It was introduced in 1799 by the then Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, as a temporary measure to cover the cost of the Napoleonic Wars.

"Today, it remains a temporary tax, which expires on April 5 each year, and has to be renewed as a provision in the annual Finance Bill. The Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1913 permits the Government to continue to collect Income Tax for up to four months after the expiry of the measure, until the Finance Bill becomes law."

GMNovember 29, 2005 8:29 AM

> I am personally willing to give up some privacy if it will save lives.

The problem is, you can't give up your privacy without also giving up MINE.

And watch out for those moving goalposts ...

Kevin McGrathNovember 29, 2005 9:33 AM

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

- Ben Franklin

For some reason the above quote popped into my head when I read this blog entry.

I think we all need to get actively involved in strongly protesting, with the loudest possible voice, all these recent governmental attempts at stripping us of our rights in the name of protecting us from terrorism.

ordajNovember 29, 2005 9:34 AM

@lyger

And what change exactly have you wrought? And just how effective have you been?

Armchair egghead.

jammitNovember 29, 2005 12:05 PM

The military operates on different rules than the cops. The cops have to cover their ass to prevent them from breaking laws. When the military is mobilized, they are the law. For anybody who's been in the military, you've certainly heard the phrase "this isn't a democracy".

Ari HeikkinenNovember 29, 2005 1:09 PM

It's more like fear and paranoia. Some of those people in your government are seeing enemies everywhere and now they see its own people as an enemy. Are they really so scared they feel they need an army to protect the government from its own people?

Terry KarneyNovember 29, 2005 2:04 PM

As a member of the military, and one in the intel community, I don't want the job.

I don't want us to have the job.

We have enough on our plates, and the risks of abuse, or simple misuse (of us, by civilian power) because of the aura of "national security" which gets attached to things we do, and the over-classification we alreadt practice makes me think this is a terrible idea.

No good oversight of the watchers is likely to be provided, and that is asking for foxes in the henhouse.

TK

C. DoreNovember 30, 2005 6:38 AM

Bruce, the formal definition of the police function that is generally favoured by criminologists is,

"A mechanism for the distribution of non-negotiable, coercive force in accordance with an intuitive grasp of situational exigencies." (Egon Bittner)

This captures police discretion yet serves to justify a policing element within any type of governmental framework, be it a democracy, dictatorship or other.

GarryOwenJanuary 18, 2010 10:43 AM

Get real folks. As a veteran Recon of the Cold War (yes and it was a real war with body counts) the separation is very clear.

A soldier is trained to ATTACK the ENEMY, a cop is not SUPPOSED to have similar ideology. Imagine if police were trained to see criminals (or anyone else) as a military-type enemy. No miranda rights, no investigation, no innocent til proven guilty, no rights whatsoever. Why, because bottomline is soldiers are NOT here for anything but to attack enemies.

Consequences: Let's get real again. We who have served in the military in any branch know what fellow soldiers will do to get to the next higher rank. Best of pals in the Army ranks will turn on each other if it will get them to the NCO level etc., we know the more article 15s an NCO hands out the better his chances are to move up in rank, and EMs suffer it. Ok, that only affects the soldiers involved - not any civillans or consitutional rights. HOWEVER if a cop is influenced by military training whatsoever - they now are not police but soldiers and we the people are now seen as the enemy - criminal or not we all know that aint right, that aint American. It is because of the differences that we have a National Guard, a Military Force, and civilian police force - and each act differently for good reason. When police are not enough to "serve and protect" the public (sometimes) the National Guard is called in, when the people's nation is under attack National military is called in, when someone is a victim of a crime police are called in. Yup, it is that simple.

Lawrie LyonsFebruary 26, 2010 11:48 PM

Dear Mr. Schneier,

I hope you don't mind that I have used an extract of your blog on my website www.thejoke.com.au

I have referenced the source. Incidentally, we here in Australia are appsolutely amazed at what is happening in your wonderful country.

Sad to say, I think you guys are in for a tough time ahead.

Best regards,
Lawrie Lyons
Australia

Lawrie LyonsFebruary 27, 2010 12:53 AM

Just an observation from personal experience. When I was a young man I joined the police force and my friend joined the army. When we meet again years later we compared notes on what we had learnt. I was trained to preserve life and keep the peace, and he was trained to take life and make war. If the policitians want to give the keys to the city to an army, its time to leave the city.

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