November 8, 2005
Joint Letter to United States Senate
We the undersigned organizations urge you not to pass any version of the 2006 Intelligence Authorization Act (S 1803) that includes two provisions that would dramatically expand Pentagon spying operations against American citizens. No Senate committee has held hearings on either of these sections.
The first problematic provision is Section 307. Under this provision, the Privacy Act would be amended to allow both the CIA and Defense intelligence agencies to access sensitive personal information on Americans collected by the FBI and other government agencies. Section 307 would thereby permit defense intelligence and CIA to create computerized dossiers on millions of Americans.
There are serious privacy and civil liberties issues raised by allowing the CIA and Defense Department wholesale access to databases of sensitive information on Americans, issues far beyond the concerns raised by FBI access. While counter-terrorism information may need to be shared between the FBI and Defense and the CIA, this change to the Privacy Act, with its low "relevance" standard, removes one of the only legal barriers to DoD and CIA creating massive databases on Americans. The provision is particularly troubling in light of recent revelations about the widespread use of national security letters by the FBI to collect sensitive records on thousands or even millions of innocent Americans. Section 307 would permit the FBI to transfer all such records to Defense intelligence and CIA databases.
The second troublesome provision is Section 431. Section 431 allows Defense intelligence operatives to gather human intelligence inside the United States, going undercover to recruit potential spies without identifying themselves as Pentagon agents to the Americans they're talking to..
DoD itself has reported that before the Privacy Act was passed thirty years ago, its intelligence agencies engaged in "monitoring of activities of innocent persons involved in the constitutionally protected expression of their views on civil rights or anti-war activities."
The Senate should not open the door to a return to those dark days without so much as a single committee hearing or public debate. The Congress must pause and evaluate these extraordinary changes before adopting them. For that reason, we urge you to oppose any unanimous consent motion to consider an Intelligence Authorization bill containing these provisions. These provisions must be carefully debated and considered, preferably through public hearings and debate.
American Policy Center
The Rutherford Institute
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
Center for Democracy and Technology
Republican Liberty Caucus
American Civil Liberties Union
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Cyber Privacy Project
Gun Owners of America