Intelligence-Gathering Program May Be Halted
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
The Pentagon's top intelligence official has recommended the dismantling of a controversial intelligence program, established by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to gather information on terrorist groups inside the United States, defense officials said last night.
Pentagon officials said the call to shutter the Counterintelligence Field Activity program, or CIFA, is part of a planned restructuring requested by James R. Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. The small agency had drawn widespread criticism from civil liberties groups and some Democratic lawmakers, who contended that it represented an unwarranted expansion of the Pentagon's domestic spying capability.
Much of the controversy stemmed from the disclosure that the agency had collected information on antiwar protesters after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Clapper ordered an end to that practice after he was appointed last year.
Defense Department spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said the proposed reorganization has nothing to do with the criticism but is part of a "realignment . . . to strengthen the department's -- and the nation's -- capabilities."
"Bringing together what had been separate [Defense Intelligence Agency] and CIFA counterintelligence entities is expected to further enhance unity of effort," he said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates must still approve Clapper's recommendation to close the agency, first reported last night by the New York Times. Gates, a former CIA director, has quietly ended or scaled back a number of controversial programs and policies put in place by Rumsfeld, whom he succeeded.
CIFA was established in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Pentagon officials then described its aim as countering the activities of foreign terrorists operating in the United States. Initially tasked with coordinating Pentagon security efforts, the agency was eventually given the power to investigate certain crimes within the United States, including treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage and economic espionage.
Although the agency was said to employ about 1,000 people, most of the details of its operation have been classified.