Bush administration spies on anti-Halliburton activists
22 Jan. 2006
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- The U.S. military spies on individuals protesting Halliburton, Newsweek reports today. ###
In an article titled, "The Other Big Brother," investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reports that a "harmless" anti-Halliburton protest in 2004 by 10 peace activists outside the company's Houston headquarters "was regarded as a potential threat to national security" by people inside the Bush administration.
The purpose of the 2004 protest "was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq," Isikoff writes. The protest was organized by anti-Halliburton activist Scott Parkin, who was deported by the government of Australia in 2005 for organizing peaceful teach-ins on Halliburton's war contracts.
Isikoff reports that the spying activity was conducted by the ultra-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), created three years ago by the Defense Department to track threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States.
According to Isikoff, "In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect 'raw information' about 'suspicious incidents.' The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's 'terrorism threat warning process,' according to an internal Pentagon memo."
But the article says the leaders of the domestic spying program admit "the outfit may have gone too far."
Isikoff reports that "there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations." A Pentagon memo obtained by Isikoff reveals that the deputy Defense secretary "now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained." The number of citizens named in the TALON reports "could be in the thousands," says a senior Pentagon official quoted by Isikoff.
These revelations are the latest in several recent disclosures showing that the Bush administration is spying on benign peace groups and individuals in the name of national security.
Vice President Dick Cheney called the spy program "vital" to the country's defense against al Qaeda. "Either we are serious about fighting this war on terror or not," he said in a speech to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. Isikoff said the new information about CIFA shows "the scope of the U.S. government's spying on Americans may be far more extensive than the public realizes," adding, "It isn't clear how many groups and individuals were snagged by CIFA's dragnet."
Isikoff's article concludes: "A Pentagon spokesman declined to say why a private company like Halliburton would be deserving of CIFA's protection." But since the military has worked closely with contractors in the past, the Defense Department has included the protection of military contractors in its spy program.