October 22, 2008
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request under expedited processing to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security earlier today.
“The American Civil Liberties Union today demanded information from the government about reports that an active military unit has been deployed inside the U.S. to help with ‘civil unrest’ and ‘crowd control’ — matters traditionally handled by civilian authorities,” a press release on the ACLU site explains. “This deployment jeopardizes the longstanding separation between civilian and military government, and the public has a right to know where and why the unit has been deployed, according to an ACLU Freedom of Information request filed today.”
“The military’s deployment within U.S. borders raises critical questions that must be answered,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “What is the unit’s mission? What functions will it perform? And why was it necessary to deploy the unit rather than rely on civilian agencies and personnel and the National Guard? Given the magnitude of the issues at stake, it is imperative that the American people know the truth about this new and unprecedented intrusion of the military in domestic affairs.”
The latest request falls on the heels of an FOIA filed on October 17 with the Justice Department and the National Security Agency. The previous request demands the agencies disclose “any policies and procedures” that protect Americans’ privacy rights when the NSA “collects, stores and disseminates private U.S. communications.” As Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, noted, “the American public needs to know whether the NSA’s procedures are sufficiently protective of our privacy rights. Unfortunately, there is often no meaningful court oversight of the NSA’s surveillance activities and the NSA is left to police itself.”
Earlier this year, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal reported on the specifics of the NSA’s “driftnet” surveillance efforts. Paul Kiel, writing for TPM Muckraker, provided the following summary of that system:
Here’s the way the whole thing works, according to Gorman: into the NSA’s massive database goes data collected by the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Treasury. This information includes data about email (recipient and sender address, subject, time sent), internet searches (sites visited and searches conducted), phone calls (incoming and outgoing numbers, length of call, location), financial information (wire transfers, credit-card use, information about bank accounts), and information from the DHS about airline passengers.
Then the NSA’s software analyzes this data for indications of terrorist activity. When it hits upon a suspicious pattern, the NSA “feeds its findings into the effort the administration calls the Terrorist Surveillance Program and shares some of that information with other U.S. security agencies.”
The so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program is nothing short of a resurrection of the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program, which was allegedly de-funded by Congress after details became public. Instead, it was rolled into NSA and is now classified. The NSA driftnet, according to Gorman, has a budget of $1 billion.
It is important to note that data collected by way of the NSA’s lavishly funded driftnet is fed into a database shared by “other U.S. security agencies,” no doubt including Northern Command with an active military unit — tasked with “civil unrest” and “crowd control” duties — at its disposal.
In January, 2007, the ACLU received documents through FOIA indicating that the Pentagon, under its domestic surveillance program, had monitored at least 186 antiwar protests in the United States and collected more than 2,800 reports involving Americans in a single anti-terrorism database. The Pentagon said they were spying on domestic antiwar and peace groups and compiling data in order to detect threats against military installations. A Pentagon unit known as Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, organized by Donald Rumsfeld after September 11, 2001, was created specifically for this purpose (see Walter Pincus, Pentagon’s Intelligence Authority Widens, the Washington Post, December 19, 2005). In April of this year, CIFA supposedly fell, a victim of bad publicity thanks to yet another ACLU FOIA. As it turns out, CIFA had not only abused National Security Letters, but managed TALON, a database that included information about antiwar protests planned at churches, schools and Quaker meeting halls.
CIFA also hosted the Joint Protection Enterprise Network, or JPEN, according to research conducted by the Agonist. JPEN allows DoD employees to enter “nonvalidated domestic threat information,” that is to say “anything and everything that someone thinks is suspicious.” General Richard B. Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a speech on May 11, 2004, and said JPEN was
“relatively cheap; it was also off-the-shelf software that was modified. It was born Joint from the beginning. It took 90 days to get from the idea to a prototype and another 60 days to get 30 bases and headquarters equipped. NORTHCOM operates it. I think we need to continue that type of information sharing outside the military; it’s got to go beyond just military installations.”
On the day after Meyers made this comment, he told the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations the Northcom JPEN “network provides the means to share unclassified force protection information rapidly between military installations in the Continental United States, increasing their situational awareness and security significantly. Although currently operating only on military installations, JPEN has the potential to be expanded to share terrorist information with Federal, State and local agencies as well.”
As noted above, the Pentagon and the NSA are more interested in monitoring antiwar and peace groups than actual terrorists. The fact Northcom is running a domestic “threat assessment” database populated with data on antiwar activists should send up a big time red flag. This is particularly ominous considering the deployment of a Iraq battle hardened brigade domestically.
It now appears the the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security — and we can only assume local law enforcement as well, as Meyers suggested back in 2006 — are sharing a “threat assessment” and terrorist database. How long before actionable information is passed down to the brigade level?
Hopefully, the ACLU’s FIOA will turn up more information on the emerging police state control grid going online. Unfortunately, we are but one “terrorist event” away from this system being used to identify, track, trace, and round up the opposition.
If we are to believe Joe Biden, Colin Powell, and Madelaine Albright, this event may happen as soon as the end of January, 2009.
Check out periodic postings on Kurt Nimmo’s Another Day in the Empire blog.