06 March, 2010

USA spying on its population like East Germany

USA spying on its population like East Germany


DoD Releases Records of Illegal Surveillance

Wednesday 03 March 2010

by: William Fisher, t r u t h o u t | Report

Defense Department agencies improperly collected and
disseminated intelligence on Planned Parenthood and a
white supremacist group called the National Alliance, an
Air Force briefing improperly included intelligence on
an antiwar group called Alaskans for Peace and Justice,
and Army Signals Intelligence in Louisiana unlawfully
intercepted civilian cell phone conversations.

These are among the disclosures made this week in the
release of more than 800 heavily-redacted pages of
intelligence oversight reports, detailing activities
that the Defense Department's (DoD) Inspector General
has "reason to believe are unlawful."

The reports are the latest in an ongoing document
release by more than a half-dozen intelligence agencies
in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF).

The reports, submitted to the Intelligence Oversight
Board (IOB) by the Inspectors General of the various
Department of Defense components, cover the period from
2001 through 2008. The IOB's role within the Executive
Office of the President is to ensure that each component
of the intelligence community works within the
Constitution and all applicable laws.

The Inspector General of each intelligence agency is
required to submit periodic reports to the IOB, which in
turn is required to forward to the attorney general any
report identifying an intelligence activity that
violates the law. Intelligence oversight reporting is
rarely disclosed to the public.

This new release comes from various DoD components,
including the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Much
of the improper activity consisted of intelligence
gathering on so-called "US Persons," including citizens,
permanent residents and US-based organizations.

While DoD agencies are generally prohibited from
collecting such information (except as part of foreign
intelligence or counter-intelligence activity), EFF says
"it is apparent from the unredacted reports released to
EFF that some DoD components have had chronic difficulty
complying with that prohibition."

Specific disclosures include:

* A report that the Joint Forces Command,
working with the FBI, improperly collected and
disseminated intelligence on Planned Parenthood and a
white supremacist group called the National Alliance, as
part of preparations for the 2002 Olympics. * A North
American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) briefing
improperly included intelligence on an antiwar group
called Alaskans for Peace and Justice in 2005. * A 2006
report that NORAD had procedural problems relating to
collecting information on US Persons. * A report from
2003 of a closed investigation into prisoner abuse at
Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq. * A report from 2006
of improper intelligence (in the TALON program) on an
anti-recruiting group. The TALON (Threat and Local
Observation Notice) program grew out of the Air Force
neighborhood watch program known as Eagle Eyes. It was
designed to record potential terrorist pre-attack
activity. * A report from 2007 of an Army Reserve
officer routinely collecting data on US Persons
exercising their free speech rights. * A 2008 report
that Army Signals Intelligence in Louisiana intercepted
civilian cell phone conversations. * A 2008 report that
Army Cyber Counterintelligence officers attended the
Black Hat hacker conference without disclosing their
Army affiliation and without prior authorization to do
so. * A report that the Air Force Office of Special
Investigations (AFOSI) set up a "honey pot" computer
system to identify foreign threats in May 2006. In
October 2007, AFOSI realized that the honey pot system
might have been in violation of a sealed Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order that
required a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
warrant for such activity. AFOSI was not privy to the
FISC order and only knew of it from public media
reporting. The operation was suspended. When the Air
Force asked the Justice Department to see the FISC order
at issue, DOJ's National Security Division denied the
Air Force's request.

Asked by Truthout to comment on the significance of the
document release, Nate Cardozo, a Legal Fellow at EFF,
said, "To get any response at all from the DoD is
noteworthy. At DoD the unlawful gathering of
intelligence is a widespread practice that we consider
problematic."

He added that the disclosures are also important because
they test the efficiency of the intelligence oversight
mechanism - and "we find it seems to be working fairly
well."

Finally, he said, "We are interested in how many of
these violations of law are referred to the attorney
general for possible criminal prosecution. Our
experience is that that number is miniscule."

EFF's original FOIA request, dating back to February
2008, went unanswered, as did another request in June
2009. As a result, in July 2009, EFF filed suit against
the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a half-dozen
other federal agencies involved in intelligence
gathering, demanding the immediate release of reports
about potential misconduct. EFF's suit was filed under
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), requesting
records of intelligence agencies' reporting of
activities since 2001 that might have been unlawful or
contrary to presidential order.

"By executive order, federal intelligence agencies must
submit concerns about potentially illegal activity to
the Intelligence Oversight Board and the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence," EFF's Cardozo said.

"Intelligence agencies are given a wide berth for
national security reasons, but at a minimum they're
required to act within the limits of the law. These
records hold important details about how well the
Executive Branch's internal checks operate," he said.

Members of the Intelligence Oversight Board are
appointed by the president to advise on intelligence
matters.

A storm of media coverage followed the previous
disclosure that the CIA chose to keep Congress in the
dark about a plan to train anti-terrorist assassin
teams. That disclosure focused public attention on the
lack of transparency in intelligence reporting.
Lawmakers accused the CIA of deliberately misleading
Congress and called for an investigation into officials'
conduct.

EFF says the reports the agencies have provided to the
Intelligence Oversight Board "undoubtedly contain
information that will shed some light on incidents such
as this - information that is necessary in order to
provide appropriate oversight."

In addition to the CIA, EFF's lawsuit named the
Department of Homeland Security, the National Security
Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of
Justice (including the FBI), the Office of the Director
of National Intelligence, the Department of Energy and
the Department of State - all of which failed to comply
with FOIA requests seeking records and reports of
concerns about intelligence activity that might have
stepped over the bounds of the law.

"The CIA is not the only agency that has faced questions
about the legality of its intelligence programs," said
EFF staff attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Electronic
surveillance and other intelligence activities have come
under increasing scrutiny during the past several years.
We're seeking information that will shed light on
incidents of intelligence misconduct, how often they
happen and how effective oversight is for controversial
programs. The agencies must follow the law and release
these records to the public."

The first results of the EFF suit were delivered in
December 2009. They included:

* The Department of Homeland Security improperly
investigated the US-based religious organization the
Nation of Islam. * High-level Pentagon officials gave
false information to Congress about al-Qaeda and the
9/11 attacks. * The Department of Homeland Security
improperly collected intelligence about a nonviolent
Muslim conference in Georgia, including details about
conference speakers who were Americans. * The National
Security Agency admitted that, as of late 2007, it
lacked processes and procedures for timely reporting of
intelligence oversight violations.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Government Secrecy
Project at the Federation of American Scientists, thinks
the latest document release is significant but
inconclusive. He told Truthout, "The latest release
leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, what
was the specific nature of the reported activities? And
what was the official response?"

As to the importance of the released documents,
Aftergood said, "It's really hard to say. But still,
thanks to EFF and the Freedom of Information Act, we at
least have a better idea of how much we don't know."

He added, "It's also somewhat encouraging that the DoD
is complying with the requirement to report potentially
unlawful activities. At least there is

..

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posted by u2r2h at Saturday, March 06, 2010

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