Salt Lake Winter Olympics: US military spied on domestic groups

“United States military intelligence spied on Planned Parenthood and other domestic groups as part of US security preparations for the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, according to a recently declassified military document obtained by a civil liberties group” | JOHN BYRNE, rawstory.com           

(Feb 2, 2010) – United States military intelligence spied on Planned Parenthood and other domestic groups as part of US security preparations for the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, according to a recently declassified military document obtained by a civil liberties group Thursday.

The document (PDF – page 98), drafted by a Pentagon Deputy Inspector General whose name is redacted, was included in more than 800 pages released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation as part of a Freedom of Information Act Request. They include reports from the Pentagon’s Intelligence Oversight Board that were submitted to the Defense Secretary from 2001 to 2007.

Referring to an incident where military intelligence personnel distributed information about FBI spying on the 2002 Olympics, the inspector general’s office tersely remarked that an “intelligence oversight violation occurred.”

“The document… contained US Persons data in referring to an reporting on organizations (Planned Parenthood, the white supremacist group National Alliance) and their involvement in protests and literature distribution,” the inspector’s office wrote. “Also noted was the report contained a large section labeled “GENERAL CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.” Collection and dissemination of US Persons information by military intelligence assets is not allowed unless this information constitutes “Foreign Intelligence.”

“The inclusion of these two sections in this intelligence product is clearly outside the purview of military intelligence assets and should be handled through law enforcement or Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection channels,” the inspector’s office added. “An inquiry into the circumstances of this violation was conducted and the result will be forwarded via separate correspondence.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation also notes that military intelligence spied on the anti-war group Alaskans for Peace and Justice in 2005 (pages 122-137), and that NORAD had “procedural problems” relating to spying on “US Persons” (pp. 257-258).

Despite a clear violation of military protocol and probable violation of US law, such reports are rarely made public. These documents were only made public under the Freedom of Information Act and were not scheduled for release.

“Intelligence oversight reporting is rarely disclosed to the public,” EFF’s Nate Cardozo noted in a posting about the documents on Thursday.

“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,” Cardozo added. “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.”

Wired‘s Kim Zetter notes that the documents provide no context or background about how or why the Pentagon spied on Planned Parenthood and other groups.

“The reports provide little context for the information that’s disclosed, leaving the public to wonder about the nature and extent of the information and surveillance revealed in them,” Zetter wrote. “Pertaining to the Planned Parenthood members, for example, the oversight report provides no explanation about how the information was collected. Nor does it indicate why the information was collected.”

In another possible legal violation, military officers listened into civilian cellphone calls in 2007. Zetter explains:

Another oversight document discusses an incident involving the interception of civilian cellphone conversations of U.S. persons in April 2007. During a field exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana, a Signals Intelligence noncommissioned officer operating a SIGINT collection system intercepted the cell phone calls, though the document doesn’t indicate if they were intercepted on U.S. soil or outside U.S. borders.

Initial reports indicated that the officer listened to the conversations for entertainment purposes, and the incident was reported to the National Security Agency. But the inspector-general document indicates that the officer never admitted to this and indicates only that he may have listened to some conversations “longer than necessary to do his job.”

Electronic Frontier Foundation has more analysis and details of the newly released documents here.


Pentagon discloses hundreds of reports of possibly illegal intelligence activities

FEBRUARY 25, 2010 | BY NATE CARDOZO

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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