WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense has developed a new strategy
in counterterrorism that would increase military activities on American soil,
particularly in the area of intelligence gathering.
The move is sparking concern among civil liberties advocates and those who
fear an encroaching military role in domestic law enforcement.
In an argument that eerily foreshadowed the July London terror attacks, the
Pentagon in late June announced its "Strategy
for Homeland Defense and Support," which would expand its reach domestically
to prevent "enemy attacks aimed at Americans here at home."
The strategy, approved by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England
) on June 24, argues that the government needs a multi-layered, preventive approach
to national defense in order to combat an unconventional enemy that will attack
from anywhere, anytime and by any conceivable means.
"Transnational terrorist groups view the world as an integrated, global
battlespace in which to exploit perceived U.S vulnerabilities, wherever they
may be," reads the 40-page document that outlines the new plans.
"Terrorists seek to attack the United States and its centers of gravity
at home and abroad and will use asymmetric means to achieve their ends, such
as simultaneous mass casualty attacks," it said.
Critics say the fears raised by the Pentagon are being used as a justification
for the military to conduct wider, more intrusive surveillance on American citizens.
"Do we want, as a free people, with the notion of privacy enshrined in
the Constitution and based on the very clear limits and defined role of government,
to be in a society where not just the police, but the military are on the street
corners gathering intelligence on citizens, sharing that data, manipulating
that data?" asked former Rep. Bob Barr (search
), R-Ga., a constitutional law expert and civil libertarian.
"This document provides a blueprint for doing just that."
Barr said the new strategy is a back-door means of following through with a
2002 plan to create a massive, centralized information database using public
and private records of individuals, called "Total Information Awareness."
Congress killed TIA in 2003 because of civil liberties and privacy concerns.
Critics say they believe much of TIA lives on in some form through smaller,
undisclosed military contracts. This latest plan, they say, is one way of jump-starting
TIA's initial goals.
"This is TIA back with a vengeance," said Barr. "What they have
come up with here is a much vaguer and much broader concept that sounds more
innocuous. [The Pentagon] is getting much smarter in how to sell these things."
The Defense Department report says its increased surveillance capabilities
at home will adhere to constitutional and privacy protections, even though it
emphasizes enhancing current "data mining" capabilities.
"Specifically, the department will… develop automated tools to improve
data fusion, analysis, and management, to track systematically large amounts
of data and to detect, fuse and analyze aberrant patterns of activity, consistent
with U.S. privacy protections," the report reads.
It will also develop "a cadre of specialized terrorism intelligence analysts
within the defense intelligence community and deploy a number of these analysts
to interagency centers for homeland defense and counter-terrorism analysis and
operations," states the report.
Some national security experts agree that emboldened surveillance on domestic
soil is necessary in the global War on Terror, and that such intelligence could
prevent the kind of attacks perpetuated by homegrown terrorists in England on
July 7 and 21.
"The Defense Department has always done intelligence operations in the
United States. They have the legal right to do that. There is nothing new here,"
James Carafano, a homeland security analyst with The
Heritage Foundation, told FOXNews.com. "There are no new threats to
privacy or constitutionality. I just think it's about doing [intelligence] more
efficiently and effectively."
But John Pike, founder of GlobalSecurity.org
, a clearinghouse of available intelligence and national security information,
says it's not so clear how much data the Pentagon will be collecting on citizens
and whether it will be retaining, sharing and building individual dossiers.
So far, the lack of detail leaves as many question as answers, he said.
"The bad news is there is certainly the possibility of a return to the
sort of domestic surveillance that we saw in the 1950s and 1960s," Pike
Pentagon officials declined to comment on the variety of data it would gather
and share, or how long it would retain files on individuals under the new homeland
Washington Post reported recently that among the databases being built by
the Pentagon is a military recruitment list of individual high school and college
students culled from commercial data brokers and other sources. The military
is planning to share the database with federal and state law enforcement agencies
if necessary, the Post reports.
A Defense Department spokesman said the military's domestic role in homeland
security will remain a supportive one, and the Pentagon will only provide resources
when local, state and federal resources and capabilities "have been exceeded
or do not exist."
"We have expanded activities in order to better execute support missions,
but we are extremely sensitive to the historically restricted, limited role
of the Defense Department," the spokesman told FOXNews.com in an e-mailed
response to questions.
The Pentagon's new strategy appears to dovetail with a recent report
by The New York Times, that said the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, which
outlines the future vision of the military and is due to Congress in February,
will reflect a new approach in which the Defense Department will prepare to
fight in one war theater at a time while putting the bulk of its resources into
The strategy approved by military officials in June also increases joint training
exercises with first responders and other agencies as well as the creation of
National Guard-staffed teams in case of a catastrophic attack.
The president would have to authorize the actual use of troops on military
soil in order to adhere to the 1878 Posse
Comitatus Act, which prohibits military involvement in domestic law enforcement.
Pentagon officials say the new strategy won't require that authorization.
But the strategy does includes more collaboration with law enforcement in "support"
roles on all levels of counter-terrorism efforts as well as the monitoring of
terrorist threats along the borders, in the air and on water.
"If they find information in the course of their business that might help
other agencies, then they can share it. If other agencies in their own intelligence
gathering find information that can help the Defense Department, they can share
that," said Carafano. "I really don’t see any legal or constitutional