1/22/2006

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com

domestic threat mirages accumulated by a directionless system actually serve to weaken counter-terrorism efforts by diverting attention from real problems and actual threats. What is more, the "suspicious activity" mentality that breeds government collection and overreach is at the core of almost all of America's problems since 9/11, domestically and overseas.

Pentagon Domestic Spying

An NBC Nightly News piece yesterday on domestic spying by the military featured yours truly discussing an intelligence database of 1,519 "suspicious incidents" that covers the period July 2004-May 2005.

The database -- which I obtained from a military source -- is a rare look inside the actual work of the Defense Department conducting counter-terrorism and "force protection" missions inside the United States. Building on the NBC story, what does the database actually show?

The database includes three categories of incidents: The first are actual, seemingly valid potential terrorism tip-offs. The second category of incidents are anti-war and anti-military protests by civilians. The third are security incidents with only the most tentative terrorism connection.

The second category of "incidents" -- those based on surveillance of anti-war and anti-nuclear groups, as well as students and others protesters -- should be disturbing to any Americans who care about civil liberties in this age of counter-terrorism because they indicate that military intelligence and local law enforcement agencies are routinely watching lawful protests.

But it is the third category of incidents that is the most numerous, the most revealing and the most corrosive. The hyper vigilant homeland security types probably wouldn't be monitoring the web sites, intercepting the Emails, and sending undercover agents into meetings of lawful and peaceful Americans if they had not accumulated this mass of self-perpetuating "threat" reporting that does little more than pad a database to suggest domestic dangers by sheer repetition.

These domestic threat mirages accumulated by a directionless system actually serve to weaken counter-terrorism efforts by diverting attention from real problems and actual threats. What is more, the "suspicious activity" mentality that breeds government collection and overreach is at the core of almost all of America's problems since 9/11, domestically and overseas.

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com

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