Police State : DIA: Domestic Covert Role


Richard Moore

    In the interview, Peirce said the new authority "would not be
    used very often and only on an exceptional basis." 

very reassuring,


Request for Domestic Covert Role Is Defended 

By Walter Pincus 
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Saturday, October 8, 2005; A04 

As part of the expanding counterterrorism role being taken on
by the Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency covert operatives
need to be able to approach potential sources in the United
States without identifying themselves as government agents,
George Peirce, the DIA's general counsel, said yesterday.

"This is not about spying on Americans," Peirce said in an
interview in which he defended legislative language approved
last week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The
provision would grant limited authority for DIA agents to
clandestinely collect information about U.S. citizens or
emigres in this country to help determine whether they could
be recruited as sources of intelligence information.

"We are not asking for the moon," Peirce said. "We only want
to assess their suitability as a source, person to person" and
at the same time "protect the ID and safety of our officers."
The CIA and the FBI already have such authority, he added, and
the DIA needs it "to develop critical leads" because "there is
more than enough work for all of us to do."

The legislative proposal has been controversial on Capitol
Hill and has drawn criticism from groups concerned with
privacy and civil liberties. The House's intelligence
authorization bill, which passed in June, does not include the
provision, which is similar to a proposal that was eliminated
last year from the legislation.

The Senate intelligence panel approved the new authority for
the DIA last week and forwarded it to the Senate Armed
Services Committee, which reviews sections related to the
Defense Department. One senior Armed Services Committee staff
member said yesterday that the DIA provision "will get close
review here."

"I'm pretty alarmed" by the proposal, said Timothy Edgar, the
American Civil Liberties Union's national security policy
counsel, saying it could conceivably be used by Pentagon
intelligence officers "as a loophole to attend political or
other meetings as part of an initial assessing contact."

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Securities
Studies, said the language in the Senate intelligence
committee bill is part of a Pentagon effort to loosen already
weak legal restrictions that "are meant to ensure that
Americans' privacy is not threatened by Pentagon spying."
Martin said she is  concerned that the language was approved
without hearings  that could explore "the actual practices and
necessity and justification for the program."

In the interview, Peirce said the new authority "would not be
used very often and only on an exceptional basis." He pointed
out there are requirements in the Senate committee language
that the intelligence sought be "significant" and that it
"cannot be reasonably obtained by overt means." It also
dictates that collecting the information may not be undertaken
"for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the
domestic activities of any U.S. person."

Noting that there are large emigre and expatriate populations
in the United States, Peirce described as a hypothetical case
a situation in which the DIA learns that a new U.S. citizen is
about to be visited by close relatives who are high-ranking
officers in a foreign military service. To assess whether the
new citizen would serve as a source of information obtained
from the relatives, or even to attempt to recruit him,  the
DIA might feel that an open approach, in which an intelligence
officer identifies himself as such, would not work. "We want
to protect the identity and assess his willingness to help,"
he said.

The DIA and other Pentagon agencies are increasing their human
intelligence activities in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks and threats to U.S. military bases and facilities at
home and abroad. Peirce said one reason the new authority is
needed is that there is "evidence the enemy is inside the U.S.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company 

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