CIA Still Acting Like A Domestic Surveillance Agency, Despite Instructions Otherwise

from the the-only-way-to-make-this-country-safe-is-to-watch-its-citizens-as-much-as-possi dept

The ACLU has received another document dump from the government as a result of its FOIA lawsuits, with this bundle dealing with the CIA's activities. This isn't directly related to the late Friday evening doc dump announced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which dealt more with the CIA's counterterrorism activities leading up to the 9/11 attacks, but there is some overlap.

Most of what the ACLU is highlighting from this pile of documents is the CIA's domestic surveillance activities. Ideally -- and according to the agency's own directives -- the amount of domestic surveillance it should be performing is almost none at all. It is charged with collecting and disseminating foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. It is allowed to track certain activities of Americans abroad, but for the most part, it is not supposed to be a domestic surveillance agency.

Despite this, the CIA has done so repeatedly. Back in the 70s, the Church Committee uncovered domestic surveillance by the agency, targeting anti-war activists and political dissenters, as well as multiple joint programs with the FBI that -- over the course of thirty years -- resulted in the interception and opening of millions of pieces of US first class mail.

Under Executive Order 120333, the CIA's domestic powers have expanded. No one knows to what extent the CIA performs domestic surveillance thanks to heavy redactions, but it appears to be just as widespread today, thanks mainly to its connection at the FISA Court: the FBI.

Although EO 12333, AR 2-2, and Annex B prohibit the agency from engaging in electronic surveillance within the United States, the CIA can nevertheless ask the FBI to do its bidding:

By partnering with the FBI, the CIA has done things like collect Americans' financial records in bulk under Section 215. A just-released Annex hints at other surveillance powers as well:
Annex B explains that the CIA may "use a monitoring device within the United States under circumstances in which a warrant would not be required for law enforcement purposes if the CIA General Counsel concurs."
Unfortunately, other details have been redacted, so it's not clear exactly what sort of "monitoring devices" the CIA is using. It appears to believe that -- despite its foreign priorities -- it can engage in any sort of warrantless domestic surveillance US law enforcement agencies can.

And it appears its domestic activities aren't all that limited. The ACLU has obtained Inspector General's reports that detail the extent of the CIA's US-focused spying activities. The heading "Intelligence Activities Conducted by CIA within the United States" is followed by "dozens" of redacted pages.

So, lots of bad news for privacy and civil liberties enthusiasts, with presumably more to come once some of this heavy redaction is cleared away. On the bright side, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is moving towards tackling the CIA's activities under Executive Order 120333. While this may not result in sweeping changes to the agency's programs, it should at least provide more insight into its domestic activities.

Filed Under: cia, domestic surveillance, surveillance


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  1. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 2:41pm

    Why is anyone surprised?

    There's NO penalty that can be applied against any US Intelligence (or other) service. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

    What disincentive do they have to NOT continue business as usual?

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