CIFA, Surveillance and Security

“We think a wiser policy is for Congress to set up a Joint Congressional Committee on Domestic Surveillance by the Federal Government. The committee could prevent domestic surveillance by the CIA and supervise domestic surveillance by the military and the separation of Army intelligence files from Army security clearance files.”

-Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito 1971

As much as I would like it to be otherwise, the world we live in today presents serious threats that require equally serious measures to ensure our safety. Terrorist plots to attack U.S. interests both domestic and abroad can be hatched anywhere on the globe. Therefore it would be foolish of our government to create a security apparatus that purposely ignored our own soil. Prior to September 11, 2001 the most devastating attack on U.S. soil was carried out by an American domestic terrorist by the name of Timothy McVeigh whose goal was the destruction of the U.S. Federal Government.

With these challenges in mind, every branch of our government is actively reinventing their security strategies. Of course, domestic surveillance is a touchy subject in the “land of the free” and one that should always be treated with the utmost transparency. Unfortunately, the Pentagon has begun this process in a less than open manner that is causing many people express concern. In February 2002 an organization within the Pentagon going by the name of Counter Intelligence Field Activity or CIFA was born by Department of Defense Directive 5105.67.

The lack of transparency surrounding CIFA has many civil libertarians and legislators up in arms.

The proposals, and other Pentagon steps aimed at improving its ability to analyze counterterrorism intelligence collected inside the United States, have drawn complaints from civil liberties advocates and a few members of Congress, who say the Defense Department’s push into domestic collection is proceeding with little scrutiny by the Congress or the public.

“We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview.

As I said earlier, it is my opinion that any security strategy missing a domestic surveillance component would be foolish but the question becomes how much power should we give our government to spy on it’s citizens? There is most definitely a fine line between empowering our security apparatus and infringing on the privacy rights of American citizens. So I ask you, how much power do you think the government should have in domestic surveillance? Are you willing to be spied upon if it will ensure a safer America? For that matter, do you believe that domestic surveillance will make us safer?

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