DIA to open new counterintelligence records unit
The Defense Intelligence Agency wants to open a new repository for information about individuals and groups in what appears to be a successor to a controversial counterintelligence program that was disbanded in 2008.
The new Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records section will be housed in DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, or DCHC, formed after the demise of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, according to an announcement that appeared Tuesday in the Federal Register.
The "activity" was disbanded, but evidently not its records database, which seems to be headed to the new unit. One of the criticisms of CIFA was that it vacuumed up raw intelligence on legal protest groups and individuals from local police and military spies.
When the DCHC was launched in 2008, the Pentagon said “it shall NOT be designated as a law enforcement activity and shall not perform any law enforcement functions previously assigned to DoD CIFA.”
Why the new depository would want such records while its parent agency no longer has a law enforcement function could not be learned. Not could it be learned whether the repository will include intelligence reports on protest groups gathered by its predecessor, CIFA.
"It’s a little hard to tell what this is exactly, but we do know that DIA took over 'offensive counterintelligence' for the DoD once CIFA was abandoned," said Mike German, a former FBI Special Agent who is now policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. "It therefore makes sense that this new DIA data base would be collecting the same types of information that CIFA collected improperly, so Americans should be just as concerned."
The Defense Department has also started collecting Suspicious Activity Reports, German pointed out, "which they share with federal, state and local law enforcement through the FBI eGuardian system."
Tuesday’s announcement in the Federal Register was vague about the kinds of intelligence the new records center will hold.
It said that it would hold information on “individuals involved in, or of interest to, DoD intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counter-narcotic operations or analytical projects as well as individuals involved in foreign intelligence and/or training activities.”
The kinds of records it intends to hold, according to the Federal Register, include “Social Security Number (SSN), address, citizenship documentation, biometric data, passport number, vehicle identification number and vehicle/vessel license data.”
Records would be gathered from “Federal, state, local, and tribal entities, foreign intelligence agencies, educational and research institutions, foreign governments and open source literature,” the announcement says.
The new records center would have a broad domestic and homeland security mandate, judging from the announcement.
It would include “records relating to … critical infrastructure protection, research and technology protection, threat analysis, counter-narcotics and risk assessments.”
“Reports of investigation, collection, statements of individuals, affidavits, correspondence, and other documentation pertaining to investigative or analytical efforts by DoD and other U.S. government agencies to identify or counter foreign intelligence and terrorist threats to the DoD and the United States,” it said, would also be gathered.
“The system of records includes ad hoc or temporary databases established to support particular investigations, task forces, or analytical projects.”
DIA’s chief spokesman Donald L. Black, reached late Tuesday afternoon, said he was unaware of the proposed new unit and not prepared to comment at this time.
Likewise, a spokeswoman at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which DIA notified about its proposal, was also unaware of the proposal and unable to comment offhand.
The new unit will open for business on July 15, “unless comments are received which result in a contrary determination,” according t the Federal Register filing.
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