Monday, June 14, 2004
Michael Isikoff, writing in Newsweek:
Last February, two Army counterintelligence agents showed up at the University of Texas law school and demanded to see the roster from a conference on Islamic law held a few days earlier. Their reason: they were trying to track down students who the agents claimed had been asking "suspicious" questions. "I felt like I was in 'Law & Order'," said one student after being grilled by one of the agents. The incident provoked a brief campus uproar, and the Army later admitted the agents had exceeded their authority. But if the Pentagon has its way, the Army may not have to make such amends in the future. Without any public hearing or debate, NEWSWEEK has learned, Defense officials recently slipped a provision into a bill before Congress that could vastly expand the Pentagon's ability to gather intelligence inside the United States, including recruiting citizens as informants . . . .The U.S. Northern Command, or Northcom, is headed up by Air Force General Ralph Eberhart, whose sterling performance as commander of NORAD on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, earned him the top job at "the nation's premier military homeland defense organization" -- proving that you cannot argue with success. In addition to lobbying for broader latitude to spy on American citizens, Gen. Eberhart has also advocated "review" of the Posse Comitatus act, the law which forbids the U.S. military to engage in domestic law enforcement operations.
Among those pushing for the provision, sources say, were officials at Northcom, the new Colorado-based command set up by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to oversee "homeland defense."