Bush Scandals List

158. TALON (Pentagon surveillance of civilians)

The Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) created February 19, 2002 created a database the Joint Protection Enterprise Network (JPEN) [sorry for the acronym gobbledygook] composed of TALONs Threat and Local Observation Notices. These are basically raw unvalidated reports of threats posed by dangerous civilian group like the Quakers. The idea of the military spying on civilians is unsettling. The Founding Fathers after all fought a revolution over such abuses and in the 4th Amendment enunciated: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Beyond this, CIFA did not follow its own guidelines in how it managed the material it obtained. The story does not end there. Duke Cunningham swung CIFA work to Mitchell J. Wade’s company MZM in exchange for bribes. He was aided in this by CIFA Director David A. Burtt II and his top deputy Joseph Hefferon. In August 2006, Burtt resigned and Hefferon retired when the Cunningham-MZM connection was made public.

On November 30, 2005, two days after Duke Cunningham enters into a plea agreement, all TALON reports were deleted from the JPEN database. However, the TALON program continues. (These programs never really die.) In keeping with the DOD (Department of Defense) Inspector General’s usual lackluster performance, a report requested by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo in January 2006 and released June 27, 2007 on TALON failed to address who was responsible for violations in following the program’s guidelines or why they occurred. The report also didn’t examine if current safeguards were adequate or if the program should continue. The Department of Defense (DOD) announced that it will close the TALON system on September 17, 2007. Per the press release, the Pentagon "is working to develop a new reporting system to replace Talon, but in the interim, all information concerning force protection threats will go to the FBI’s Guardian reporting system." It has also been reported that CIFA will keep a copy of record as evidence that the program was properly administered (or if they want to start it up again as some point). As for impropriety, yes, this occurred, but the real problem with the program is that it is and was blatantly unconstitutional. Nor as I pointed out earlier do these programs ever die. So is TALON really gone? No. Names are changed but functions remain and the data are never destroyed.

On April 1, 2008, in response to a FOIA request by the ACLU, the Pentagon released documents that showed that CIFA had used the FBI to get around restrictions on its own use of administrative warrants (National Security Letters or NSLs, see item 98) and that it had not provided any guidance on their use or kept adequate records of them. The next day the New York Times reported that General James R. Clapper Jr., Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, was recommending to Secretary Gates that CIFA be closed down and that “some of its operations” be moved to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). In other words, roll up the program but not the function.

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