Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pentagon Discloses Hundreds of Reports of Possibly Illegal Intelligence Activities

Pentagon Discloses Hundreds of Reports of Possibly Illegal Intelligence Activities

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The Department of Defense has released more than 800 heavily-redacted pages of intelligence oversight reports, detailing activities that its 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 EFF in July 2009.

The reports, submitted to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) by 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. As such, 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, from various Defense components including the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comes in four parts, see here. Much of the reported improper activity consisted of intelligence gathering on so-called “U.S. Persons,” including citizens, permanent residents and U.S.-based organizations. Although Defense agencies are generally prohibited from collecting such information (except as part of foreign intelligence or counter-intelligence activity), it is apparent from the unredacted reports released to EFF that some DoD components have had chronic difficulty complying with that prohibition.

Some specific items of interest include:

Part 1

  • Pg 98: 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.
  • Pg 122-137" A NORAD intelligence briefing improperly included intelligence on an anti-war group called Alaskans for Peace and Justice in 2005.
  • Pg 257-258: A 2006 report that NORAD had procedural problems relating to collecting information on U.S. Persons.

Part 3

  • Pg 53-54: A report from 2003 of a closed investigation into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq.
  • Pg 60: A report from 2006 of improper intelligence (in the TALON program) on an anti-recruiting group.
  • Pg 112: A report from 2007 of an Army Reserve officer routinely collecting data on U.S. Persons exercising their free speech rights.

Part 4

  • Pg 19: A 2008 report that Army Signals Intelligence in Louisiana intercepted civilian cell phone conversations.
  • Pg 65: 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.
  • Pg 173: 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. Amazingly, 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.

According to the release schedule ordered by a federal judge last December, we expect to receive additional IOB reports from the CIA, National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense later this month. We will post the documents to our website as we receive them.

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