CIFA 2.0 Back in the Outsourcing Business

Remember the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)? Here’s how I described it back in 2007.

CIFA is, along with the National Security Letters Congress is now cracking down on, probably the biggest abuse of civil rights and privacy BushCo has hatched up. It was designed to gather intelligence on threats to defense installments in the United States–to try to collect information (in the TALON database) on threatening people scoping out domestic bases. But it ended up focusing on peace activists and the lefty blogosphere’s own Jesus’ General70 percent of CIFA’s employees are contractors, a figure that makes it a prime candidate for politicized contracting scandal.

Among the contractors spying on Americans was MZM, one of the companies that bribed Duke Cunningham. Prosecutors in that case started investigating MZM’s CIFA contracts in May 2006. Three months after that, the top two managers at CIFA, who had directed CIFA keep sending MZM contracts, resigned suddenly. When DOD’s Inspector General tried to investigate CIFA in 2007, it discovered (it claimed) that the entire CIFA database had been destroyed in June 2006, just as prosecutors were closing in on those contracts.

Later, in 2008, just as CIFA was claiming it couldn’t publicly reveal its unclassified contracts, we learned that Stephen Cambone (who had led one of the inquiries into CIFA), had won a contract from it, sort of a payoff for not finding anything, I guess.

Later that year, DOD “disestablished” CIFA.

Or rather, they renamed it, calling it the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center. Then, last year, we learned that database DOD claimed had been destroyed in 2006 really hadn’t been, and CIFA 2.0 was getting back in the business of keeping a database of information on big threats to the US like Quakers and bloggers.

The Defense Intelligence Agency wants to open a new repository for information about individuals and groups in what appears to be a successor to a controversial counterintelligence program that was disbanded in 2008.

The new Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records section will be housed in DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, or DCHC, formed after the demise of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, according to an announcement that appeared Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The “activity” was disbanded, but evidently not its records database, which seems to be headed to the new unit. One of the criticisms of CIFA was that it vacuumed up raw intelligence on legal protest groups and individuals from local police and military spies.

When the DCHC was launched in 2008, the Pentagon said “it shall NOT be designated as a law enforcement activity and shall not perform any law enforcement functions previously assigned to DoD CIFA.”

Why the new depository would want such records while its parent agency no longer has a law enforcement function could not be learned. Not could it be learned whether the repository will include intelligence reports on protest groups gathered by its predecessor, CIFA.

The only thing left, at that point, was to figure out what defense contractor was getting rich spying on American citizens.

The answer? Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin has openings for talented and motivated professionals in the counterintelligence (CI) field to be part of an evolving and highly specialized team that will provide direct support to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC).

The team Lockheed Martin is assembling a team which will function in CI areas such as: force protection; support to Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF); CI in Cyberspace; research, development and acquisitions; critical infrastructure protection; CI support to Offensive CI Operations; analysis & production (A&P); collections; campaigns; policy; assessments; TSCM; security; information assurance, and Enterprise governance support (administrative).

Not only is the entire concept wrong, using contractors to spy on Quakers and bloggers. Not only is it especially troublesome that Lockheed–a company with close ties to NSA–is doing this work (which would make it easy for reports from physical surveillance to migrate into the signals surveillance NSA does). But note what else is now included in CIFA 2.0: “CI in Cyberspace.” That is, Lockheed with its close ties to NSA is now in charge of spying on those claimed to present an online counterintelligence threat to the United States. And maybe doing things like hacking a media site to try to exercise illegal prior restraint.

FBI’s Lies about Anti-War Surveillance Also Protected CIFA

Let me spoil the ending of this series on the IG Report on FBI Investigations of First Amendment Activity. I suspect there are ties between the FBI’s investigations of anti-war activists and CIFA, the DOD program that collected information on anti-war activists in the Talon database. I’ll say more about this in a later post or three. But for now, I just wanted to point out the close tie between the FBI reporting on the Pittsburgh anti-war group Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) and an entry in a leaked fragment of the CIFA database.

The following are the anti-war POG activities known to be recorded by the government (note, the names of the alleged POG members are pseudonyms invented by the IG Report):

January 8, 2004: Electronic Communication (EC) opens domestic terrorism preliminary investigation into “Nicholas Herman” for being a leading POG member.

February 4, 2004: EC opens domestic terrorism preliminary investigation into “Arnold Philips” and “Terry Waterman” for “doing business as” POG and planning a March 20, 2004 “Global Day of Action against War and Occupation.”

February 24, 2004: Two FBI agents meet with Pittsburgh law enforcement to plan for security for March 20, 2004 event; the EC from the meeting notes that Thomas Merton Center had obtained parade permit for event.

March 20, 2004: Two FBI agents monitor the protest to “verify the participation” of Herman, Philips, and Waterman. The EC notes that no “actionable criminal activities” except trespass on university property took place.

April 19, 2004: EC notes the arrest for disorderly conduct and failure to disperse of Philips and five others protesting George Bush speech in Pittsburgh.

June 3, 2004: Two FBI agents conduct drive-by surveillance of 11 residences, businesses, and organizations frequented by POG members, including TMC.

July 2004, unknown date: Miami FBI field division informs Pittsburgh (and NY) FBI that at meeting in Pittsburgh, POG members planned protest for during the RNC Convention in August-September of that year.

July 9, 2004: FBI obtains 180-day extension for preliminary inquiry into Herman.

July 30, 2004: FBI obtains 180-day extension for preliminary inquiry into Philips and Waterman.

August-September 2004: FBI notes that Waterman had no criminal history and local law enforcement officials in Pittsburgh had never run into Waterman during their investigations of anarchists, though Chicago’s law enforcement said he had ties to anarchists there.

October 29, 2004: Confidential source report–ostensibly tied to the Herman investigation–on organizing meeting at TMC for later anti-war protest. Describes, “meeting and discussion was primarily anti anything supported by the main stream American.”

Unknown 2004: At least one more confidential source report on POG.

November 2004: FBI notes Pittsburgh police arrest of Philips, on disorderly conduct charges, for trying to prevent an officer from arresting another protester burning an American flag.

January 20, 2005: FBI closes preliminary investigation into Herman.

January 26, 2005: FBI closes preliminary investigation into Philips and Waterman.

January 28, 2005: EC reflecting internet article alleging that two FBI agents entered “two … normally locked doors” at Philips’ apartment (where a TMC intern and staffer lived) to leave a note for Philips to call the FBI; the FBI agent claimed they only entered the unlocked outside door and left a note on the apartment door.

February 15, 2005: Confidential source report on POG that includes TMC.

March 1, 2005: Confidential source report on POG that includes TMC.

March 19, 2005: Confidential source report that must have covered the protest marking the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.

April 27, 2005: Talon database entry (see PDF 7) describing POG anti-recruitment event targeted at Carnegie Mellon.

Unknown date (probably January) 2006: Chief Division Counsel tells agent to close the apparently still active source.

The IG Report makes it clear that for the fifteen months leading up to the event recorded in the Talon database entry, the FBI had been investigating POG and other Pittsburgh anti-war groups based only on the trumped up claim that members of the groups might commit a crime in the future. The FBI used a confidential informant (as I explain here, the informant was the FBI agent’s son’s friend who had gotten into legal trouble himself) to continue reporting on POG and the anti-war community for two months after the FBI had formally ended the investigation that purportedly justified the infiltration. Apparently, that source remained active for over a year after the investigation was closed (ACLU’s FOIA only covered records mentioning TMC before May 18, 2005, and the IG Report makes no claim to describe all the confidential informant reports on POG).

And surprise, surprise! The very subject of those ongoing investigations–Pittsburgh’s anti-war activism–ends up in DOD’s database.

Note that DOD destroyed this database (though the records were reportedly saved) in June 2006, precisely the month that ACLU sued to get DOD to comply with its FOIA for Talon records including those on POG, so DOD did not turn over those records on POG.

So we don’t know who generated the Talon report on the April 27, 2005 POG effort. But we do know that a number of the Talon reports on anti-war activists came from “Federal law enforcement personnel.” And we know that Talon database entries were routinely shared with local Joint Terrorism Task Forces which, as we’ve seen repeatedly in the IG Report, were the ones investigating Pittsburgh’s anti-war community.

The FBI invented a number of stories to explain away their systematic, long-term investigation of Pittsburgh’s anti-war community, not to mention to explain away the lies FBI told Congress in response to inquiries about that surveillance. But to the extent that surveillance was systematic, those lies served to protect not only FBI, but the CIFA program as well.

The Return of CIFA. Now, with Interrogation Capabilities!

Jeff Stein notes that the Defense Intelligence Agency has plans to set up a new records center for its counterintelligence operation.

The Defense Intelligence Agency wants to open a new repository for information about individuals and groups in what appears to be a successor to a controversial counterintelligence program that was disbanded in 2008.

The new Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records section will be housed in DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, or DCHC, formed after the demise of the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, according to an announcement that appeared Tuesday in the Federal Register.

As Stein notes, DCHC replaced CIFA, the DOD organization that got caught spying on Quakers and the blogger Jesus’ General. And now, they apparently want to set up a system that will be subject to the Privacy Act.

The Defense Intelligence Agency proposes to add a system of records to its inventory of record systems subject to the Privacy Act of 1974, (5 U.S.C. 552a), as amended.

Which I presume means they’ve got records of Americans in there.

Two points on this. First, as Mark Ambinder recently reported, the organization that took over CIFA’s activities, DCHC, is also the organization running our black site prison in Afghanistan.

It has been previously reported that the facility, beige on the outside with a green gate, was operated by members of a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)  group, allegedly outside of Harward’s jurisdiction. But JSOC, a component command made up of highly secret special mission units and task forces, does not operate the facility.

Instead, it is manned by intelligence operatives and interrogators who work for the DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC). Read more

DOD’s Latest Black Site

Fresh off of the ICRC’s confirmation that DOD has a black site in Bagram, Marc Ambinder has a long piece on it, describing it as run by part of the DIA, the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, and downplaying, somewhat, what its use of Appendix M might mean. For example, he describes the Appendix to cover just short bouts of sleep deprivation and some sensory deprivation.

However, under secret authorization, the DIA interrogators use methods detailed in an appendix to the Field Manual, Appendix M, which spells out “restricted” interrogation techniques.

Under certain circumstances, interrogators can deprive prisoners of sleep (four hours at a time, for up to 30 days), to confuse their senses, and to keep them separate from the rest of the prison population. The Red Cross is now notified if the captives are kept at the facility for longer than two weeks.

When interrogators are using Appendix M measures, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Gen.James Clapper (Ret.) is the man on the hook.

I think Ambinder has just not clearly stated the sleep deprivation restrictions (which require 4 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, but which would therefore allow for 40 hour periods of consecutive sleep deprivation). And the limits in Appendix M make it clear that environmental manipulation (with noise, heat, cold, or even water) is still permitted, just not excessive amounts of it.

Care should be taken to protect the detainee from exposure (in accordance with all appropriate standards addressing excessive or inadequate environmental conditions) to—

− Excessive noise.

− Excessive dampness.

− Excessive or inadequate heat, light, or ventilation.

− Inadequate bedding and blankets.

− Interrogation activity leadership will periodically monitor the application of this technique.

Use of separation must not preclude the detainee getting four hours of continuous sleep every 24 hours.

Oversight should account for moving a detainee from one environment to another (thus a different location) or arrangements to modify the environment within the same location in accordance with the approved interrogation plan.

Which would be utterly consistent with BBC’s report that detainees there were subject to cold cells, constant light, and sleep deprivation.

There are a lot of interesting details in Marc’s piece. But perhaps the most amusing is the Orwellian non-denial denial from DOD’s spokesperson, Brian Whitman:

“DoD does operate some temporary screening detention facilities which are classified to preserve operational security; however, both the [Red Cross] and the host nation have knowledge of these facilities,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesperson. Read more

Disestablishmentarianism, CIFA Version

Remember that word? As a kid you probably proudly claimed to have learned its opposite, antidisestablishmentarianism, not long after you learned how to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. You may vaguely remember that the word pertains directly to state sanctioning–or unsanctioning–of religion.

According to Warren Strobel, the Pentagon has decided to use the term "disestablished" to refer to the closure of the CIFA program.

Today comes the news, not unexpected, that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has shuttered–the official euphemism is "disestablished"–the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA.


CIFA’s resources and responsibilities are being transferred to the Defense Intelligence Agency , under a new unit called the Defense Counterintelligence (CI) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Center.

And on the issue of the Pentagon’s choice to use a word with religious connotations to refer to the reorganization of its domestic spying program, Strobel adds this:

Or, more specifically, will the Defense Department continue to have an expanded role in domestic intelligence-gathering and surveillance?

No clear answer on that question. Today’s Pentagon press release did note: "CIFA’s designation as a law enforcement activity did not transfer to DIA. The new center will have no law enforcement function."

I’m not sure about how the Pentagon distinguishes between its law enforcement religion and its intelligence religion, but I am reminded that when DOD’s IG did a report trying to cover up the TALON debacle, it excused DOD spying on Americans this way:

The TALON reports were generated for law enforcement and force protection purposes. We found no evidence that the U.S. person information for organizations and individuals that were not affiliated with the DoD resulted from an intelligence collection operation. Therefore, the TALON reports were maintained as law enforcement information and were subject to DoD Directive 5200.27, “Acquisition of Information Concerning Persons and Organizations Not Affiliated with the Department of Defense,” January 7, 1980.

DoD Gathering U.S. Person Information for Law Enforcement and Force Protection Purposes. DoD Directive 5200.27 establishes general policy for collecting, processing, storing, and disseminating information on persons not affiliated with DoD. DoD Components are authorized to gather information that is essential for protecting DoD functions and property, personnel security, and operations related to civil disturbance. It specifies that nothing in the directive should be interpreted as prohibiting prompt reporting to law enforcement agencies of any information that might threaten life or property, or violate law, or prohibit keeping a record of such a report. Read more

Preview: Book Salon on Spies for Hire

shorrock.jpgI wanted to give you all a heads up to a mid-week book salon I’ll be hosting today at 3PM ET over at the mother ship: Tim Shorrock’s Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. I pushed to include Shorrock on the schedule because (as you’ll see in my post at 3) his book offers some key insights on FISA–and we seem to be gearing up for another FISA fight.

But there’s more than FISA that might interest you about the book (and about chatting with Shorrock). He gives the corporate back-story to:

  • Rick Renzi’s corruption
  • The domestic spying Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA)
  • CACI, the company whose contractors directed the torture at Abu Ghraib
  • Total Information Awareness
  • The domestic satellite surveillance Chertoff wants to use with DHS

Shorrock wraps that background story in a discussion both of the ideology behind the privatization of our intelligence function:

…as we’ve seen, money and profits are not the sole motivators for the corporations and executives who populate the Intelligence Industrial Complex. Because so many top executives are former intelligence officers themselves, many of their companies are motivated by politics as well. For CACI’s CEO, Jack London, that translates into a desire to "disseminate vital intelligence" for the fight against "Islamofascists." For ManTech CEO George Pederson, it’s a yearning for his company to be "on the battlefield," whether in Iraq, South Korea, or the Philippines. For the senior vice presidents of the big prime contractors, Booz Allen Hamilton and Science Applications International Corporation, it involves power, either as a way to influence future policy or make changes in the way the Intelligence Community is organized.

And a discussion of the subservience of public to private interest in such an Intelligence-Industrial Complex.

In the past, [former NSA Director Kenneth] Minihan said, contractors "used to support military operations; now we participate [in them]. We’re inextricably tied to the success of their operations." This new situation, he argued, presents corporations with "interesting opportunities" to create technologies that governments can take advantage of, "with all the complexities that exist in merging the interests of the private and public sector in the intelligence apparatus."

Merging the interests of the private and public sector. That astonishing phrase, which is now the mantra of the intelligence contracting industry, suggests the creation of a new mode of capitalism that specifically serves theneeds of government and its "intelligence apparatus." Read more

Pentagon “Closing” CIFA

You all remember CIFA, don’t you? It’s the Pentagon’s very own counter-intelligence organization, one with the added benefit that, like all things Pentagon, it can serve as the source of contracting bounty for corrupt Republican cronies (up to and including Stephen Cambone, who created the damn organization). CIFA has spied on, among other things, the Quakers and Jesus’ General. You know, because peaceniks and DFH satirical bloggers are apparently the biggest threat to our military…

I’ve long suspected that CIFA was a clever plot, on the part of the Republicans, to outsource their Nixonian domestic spying, so as to hide it from oversight better than Nixon managed to. That suspicion only hardened when I learned that the CIFA database (including its records on the Quakers and Jesus’ General) went “poof” one day, remarkably enough at the same time as Carol Lam was closing in on the Mitch Wade subcontractor associated with CIFA, MZM (the same organization that had a contract with OVP to do something with emails).

It’s a real treasure trove of civil liberties atrocities, CIFA is.

Well, as luck would have it, on the very same day that the Pentagon released documents to the ACLU revealing that CIFA had abused National Security Letters to (among other things) collect information on a few Pentagon employees, the Pentagon has announced it is shutting down CIFA.

The Pentagon is expected to shut a controversial intelligence office that has drawn fire from lawmakers and civil liberties groups who charge that it was part of an effort by the Defense Department to expand into domestic spying.


The intelligence unit, called the Counterintelligence Field Activity office, was created by Mr. Rumsfeld after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as part of an effort to counter the operations of foreign intelligence services and terror groups inside the United States and abroad.

Yet the office, whose size and budget is classified, came under fierce criticism in 2005 after it was disclosed that it was managing a database that included information about antiwar protests planned at churches, schools and Quaker meeting halls.

The Pentagon’s senior intelligence official, James R. Clapper, has recommended to Mr. Gates that the counterintelligence field office be dismantled and that some of its operations be placed under the authority of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the officials said.

The NYT presents advocates saying the closure is a great thing and others suggesting this is just a cover-up–that the domestic spying will get buried deep in the Pentgon where we’ll have to ferret it out again. Read more

Stephen Cambone Collects on His Handiwork with CIFA

I’ve long suspected that the GOP has used the Counter-Intelligence Field Activity (CIFA) as a way to spy on domestic enemies even while making their friends rich. CIFA is the organization that collected information on both Jesus’ General and Quakers, then stuck it into a database without following requisite privacy protections. And then, when Congress and the Carol Lam started focusing on CIFA, its database on private citizens got quickly disappeared.

70% of its staff are contractors. And one of the early CIFA contractors was the company of Mitch Wade–Duke Cunningham’s briber–MZM.

Which is why I noted, back in May 2006, that CIFA seemed like a huge improvement (from a Republican perspective) on Nixon-era domestic spying.

Back when Nixon was spying on his enemies, he used the agencies of the US government. He was using civil servants subject to congressional oversight to do his dirty work. But the newfangled Republican party learned in Iran-Contra that, if you outsource the dirty work far enough, you’re more likely to avoid the oversight that will lead to discovery.


So let me connect the dots here. Republican legislators have set up this nifty scheme, whereby their buddies ply them with golf trips, swank real estate deals, and prostitutes. In exchange for that booty, they give their buddies contracts at Defense or Homeland Security or CIA. Spying contracts. Under those spying contracts, the buddies spy on American citizens, even funny bloggers and peaceniks. And although it is known that these buddies are a little sloppy with the way they spy on American citizens, they continue to get more work.

Now, as I said, back in 2006, as the whole Cunningham scandal was erupting, all of a sudden people decided it might be good to start exercising some oversight over CIFA. The Cunningham investigation extended to Wade’s contracting on CIFA. Congress held some hearings. More interestingly, Stephen Cambone claimed to lead an inquiry.

Undersecretary of Defense Stephen A. Cambone has ordered an internal study of how funding earmarked in a bill by then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) led to contracts for MZM Inc. to do work for the Pentagon’s newest intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, a Defense Department spokesman said. Read more