Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Not Again! New DOD Spy agency quietly given incredible powers

I know it's  getting overwhelming.  It's so hard to summon the adrenaline for another go at outrage and disbelief.   This last month has been like a  two minute drill of scandals,indictments, and  constitutional crises.   I understand wanting to throw up you hands and say "It's all too much"

But even so This Washington Post Story Deserves special attention and cannot be allowed to be overlooked:

The Pentagon's newest counterterrorism agency, charged with protecting military facilities and personnel wherever they are, is carrying out intelligence collection, analysis and operations within the United States and abroad

CIFA is a three-year-old agency>whose size and budget remain secret. It has grown from an agency that coordinated policy and oversaw the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies to an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and ever-widening authority.

In the immortal words of Astro the Dog:  "ruh-roh!"
If you care about civil rights there few words that will make you go into insta-pucker mode with fear faster than :"rapidly Expanding" or "ever widening authority"   when used to describe an Intelligence agency. The third scariest is "recently Granted MAJOR new authority"

Guess what Phrases best Describe the mysterious CIFA?

A former senior Pentagon intelligence official, familiar with CIFA, said yesterday, "They started with force protection from terrorists, but when you go down that road, you soon are into everything . . . "

and he DOES mean Everything.  This little agency started to physically protect bases from terrorist attack, has taken a nearly existentially broad view of its mission:

Its Directorate of Field Activities (DX) "assists in preserving the most critical defense assets, disrupting adversaries and helping control the intelligence domain," [According to an offical fact sheet"].

Those roles can range from running roving patrols around military bases and facilities { So Far so good... }  to surveillance of potentially threatening people or organizations inside the United States. { Holy crap batman!}

And they've got sorts of interesting capabilities one doesn't usually find in say your average asset security operation:

Another CIFA directorate, the Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement Center, "identifies and assesses threats" to Defense personnel, operations and infrastructure from "insider threats, foreign intelligence services, terrorists, and other clandestine or covert entities," according to the Pentagon.

And what the Hell precisely does THAT mean?  Well here's the bit (and you knew it was coming)  where the spying on the nuns and the Quakers and the gays comes in:

CIFA manages the Pentagon database that includes Talon reports,
consisting of raw, unverified information picked up by the military services on suspicious activities that could involve terrorist threats. The Pentagon acknowledged last week that the Talon database contained reports on peaceful civilian protests and demonstrations that should have been purged long ago under Defense Department regulations.

ooopsie.  Wonder how those got there.  S' a good thing we have so much trust in the integrity of our government built up, or we might get really pissed at a thing like that.  

And Folks, I hate to tell you this, but we only just started with the Scary:

A third CIFA directorate, Behavioral Sciences, "has 20 psychologists and a multimillion-dollar budget," and supports both "offensive and defensive counterintelligence efforts," ...

Well That's Certainly no reason to be breaking out the extra-strength-Depends or anything.  I can't image what would be upsetting to anyone about a hyper-secret agency with a  team of behavioral psychologists and a multimillion dollar black budget!!  .Just like I'm sure  the term "offensive Counter-intelligence Operations" is merely an Oxymoron and doesn't mean anything like "pre-emptive war".  

  So really, there's nothing to worry about at all.  And even if there was; that's what our whole system of Check and Balances is about.   We can certainly cont on our representatives in Congress to  keep a close eye on them, and make sure they don't get out of hand  Right?

[The former senior Pentagon offical Noted that] "there ha[s] been no congressional oversight of CIFA," [and] that the Defense Department "is too big, too rich an organization and should not be left unfettered. They rush in where there is a vacuum."

A former senior counterterrorism official, also familiar with CIFA, said, "What you are seeing is the militarization of counterterrorism."

You'll excuse me while I go change into my brown trousers.

 I wish that was the worst of it.; but astute readers not hiding under their desks may recall I said something about them becoming even MORE powerful recently.  What came before was a mere palate cleanser of fear and paranoia.  Here's the main course:


CIFA's authority is still growing. In a new move to centralize all counterterrorism intelligence collection inside the United States, the Defense Department this month gave CIFA authority to task domestic investigations and operations by the counterintelligence units of the military services.

Roughly translated into English that means: "we're all screwed"

Okay to be a touch more precise:

The tasking authority allows CIFA to assign Defense counterintelligence organizations "to execute a specific mission or conduct a function falling within that organization's charter," ...CIFA's new authority will give the agency the ability to propose missions to Army, Navy and Air Force units, which combined have about 4,000 trained active, reserve and civilian investigators in the United States and abroad.For example, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) has 1,935 "federally credentialed special agents," according to its Web site.

In other, other words  A secret government agency with no congressional oversight is now in total control of the actions of ALL the investigative Units and personnel in all 5 branches of the armed forces and DOD.  This amounts to nearly 5,000  agents in all.  Worse yet, most of these investigators are designated as "federal special agents"  which means that they have the  exact same powers or arrest and investigation as FBI agents.  

To put this in perspective, this  is nearly half as many as the very large and publicly accountable FBI has to assign to ALL of its cases:

the FBI recently disclosed it has about 11,000 special agents overall, about 4,929 of whom are assigned to terrorism investigation.

Are you feeling queasy yet? It is possible to contemplate the fact that a massive new federal agency 5,000 investigators, and unknown budget and unbelievably expansive powers  can be created with one short internal DOD memo(likely classified at that) under the current interregnum:?.

I know we are hip deep in a near-Constitutional crisis already, but this too is in desperate need of the Strong disinfectant of sunshine.  Remember, presidents and administrations may come and go, but government agencies once established, are eternal.   If this is allowed to stand, it will be decades before anything meaningful can be changed about this agency.  The time to scream is Right NOW before they are allowed to gather any bureaucratic momentum


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