By William Fisher
The Pentagon office that claims to monitor terrorist threats to U.S. military bases in North America – but is known to have spied on at least 186 peaceful anti-war protests in the U.S. – has just awarded a $30 million contract to a company whose senior management includes the former Defense Department (DOD) official who set up that office.
The former DOD official is Dr. Stephen Cambone, a trusted protégé of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Since his resignation as DOD’s Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence following Rumsfeld’s departure in November 2006, Cambone has been vice president for strategy of a company known as QinetiQ (pronounced “kinetic”) North America, a major British-owned defense and intelligence contractor based in McLean, Virginia.
Two months after QinetiQ hired Cambone to expand its North American operations, that company’ s Mission Solutions Group signed a five-year, $30 million contract to provide a range of unspecified “security services” to the Pentagon’s Counter-Intelligence Field Activity office, known as CIFA. While at the Pentagon, Cambone was responsible for supervising CIFA and was deeply involved in the Pentagon’s most controversial intelligence programs at a time when DOD was making concerted efforts to marginalize the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by setting up its own parallel intelligence apparatus.
Formerly known as Analex, QinetiQ’s new contract expands work that Analex was providing to CIFA since 2003. CIFA manages a database of what it regards as "suspicious incidents" in the U.S. The database includes intelligence, law enforcement, counterintelligence, and security reports, as well as raw non-validated information from DOD's "Threat and Local Observation Notice" (TALON) reporting system of unfiltered information.
In 2006, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information request to inspect TALON’s documentation. It received and reviewed hundreds of TALON documents, among which was a 2006 memo listing 186 reports involving “anti-military protests or demonstrations in the U.S., several peaceful protesters identified as potential threats to the military, and 2,821 TALON reports relating to “U.S. person information” and “anti-military protests or demonstrations in the U.S.” These reports were entered into a DOD anti-terrorist threat database.
Pentagon documents released by the ACLU show that the DOD monitored the activities of a wide range of peace groups, including Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Code Pink, the American Friends Service Committee, the War Resisters League, and United for Peace and Justice.
The organization said the Pentagon’s misuse of the TALON database is just one example of increased government surveillance of innocent Americans.
“It cannot be an accident or coincidence that nearly 200 anti-war protests ended up in a Pentagon threat database,” said Ann Beeson, the ACLU’s Associate Legal Director. “This unchecked surveillance is part of a broad pattern of the Bush administration using ‘national security’ as an excuse to run roughshod over the privacy and free speech rights of Americans.”
And Mary Shaw of Amnesty International USA, told IPS, “This is a prime example of how the U.S. government has created a broad definition of "domestic terrorism" that overreaches, and can have a chilling effect on our rights to free expression, free association, and privacy. Even in times of crisis, it is important to preserve our constitutional rights. As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘He who gives up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety’."
Telephone calls to QinetiQ’s offices seeking comment for this article were not returned.
TALON was created after the U.S. Congress in 2002 approved a proposal backed by Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard Cheney to create a new undersecretary slot at the Pentagon specifically for intelligence. Cambone was given the job. Under the law, Cambone exercised the Secretary of Defense’s “authority, direction and control” over all DOD intelligence, counterintelligence and security policy, plans and programs.
The mission of Rumsfeld and Cambone was to give the Pentagon greater authority in the area of human intelligence, traditionally the preserve of the CIA. Cambone’s deputy was Army Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin, then a deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Boykin was later reprimanded by the Army for “inappropriate” comments made in a series of speeches given in evangelical churches while in his military uniform, in which he described the war on terrorism as a Christian battle against evil.
Civil libertarians and human rights activists have drawn parallels between CIFA’s collection and retention of data on peace groups and other activists and the domestic collection of data through such programs as COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). COINTELPRO was a program of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the U.S. Its targets were organizations that were at the time considered to have politically radical elements, ranging from groups such as The Weahtermen, who advocated the violent overthrow of the U.S. government to such non-violent civil rights activist organizations as Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Such acitivites were later strictly regulated by laws such as the Privacy Act of 1974, which strengthened and specified a U.S. citizen's right to privacy as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine, Cambone was also involved in the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal. Hersh claimed the interrogations at Abu Ghraib were part of a highly classified Special Access Program (SAP) code-named Copper Green, authorized by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and ultimately overseen by Cambone.
Originally a joint CIA-Pentagon program in Afghanistan that utilized highly trained Special Operations personnel, Copper Green eventually expanded to Iraq, Hersh reported, where Cambone decided to begin using non-Special Operations personnel -- including military intelligence officers and other military personnel --to begin questioning prisoners whose status was outside the program's original brief. He wrote that the CIA objected and withdrew from the program, while Cambone apparently tasked Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, former Guantánamo Bay interrogations chief, with "Gitmo-izing" Iraq's prison system.
The bottom line: Rummie may be gone, but the Bush Administration and its army of private contractors continues to be chockablock with his private armies and neocon sycophants. And most of the departed are re-entering, and earning a ton more money in the process.
If you were hoping that Bob Gates was going to change all that, get over it.