Controversial military counterspy office closed

August 4, 2008 6:08:20 PM PDT
The Pentagon on Monday officially dissolved an intelligence office that once created a controversial database about potential threats to military bases, shifting it to the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon's six-year old Counterintelligence Field Activity's personnel, budget, and most of its mission has been folded into the newly created Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center.

Human intelligence is military parlance for using people, rather than gadgets, to spy. Counterintelligence refers to actions taken to protect an organization against espionage.

The counterintelligence field office budget was secret, but it was created to protect DoD personnel, resources, and information against foreign influence and manipulation, as well as to detect and neutralize espionage against the department. As such it had law enforcement powers within the Defense Department. Those powers will not transfer to the new center.

The old office maintained the TALON, a database created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to track potential threats to military facilities and personnel. In December 2005 it was disclosed that the system included data on antimilitary protests and other peaceful demonstrations, including the names of people who attended peace rallies.

A 2006 Pentagon review found that as many as 260 reports in the database were improperly collected or kept there. At the time, the Pentagon said there were about 13,000 entries in the database, and that less than 2 percent either were wrongly added or were not purged later when they were determined not to involve real threats. The data base was closed in September 2007.

"The realignment of CIFA's functions and resources into DIA strengthens the close historical and operational relationship between counterintelligence and HUMINT," said Army Maj. Gen. Theodore Nicholas, the center's new director, in a statement issued by the Pentagon. "Integration under one organization will result in greater collaboration in operational and support areas where both disciplines overlap."