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Pentagon's New Spies

The military has built a vast domestic-intelligence network to fight terrorism -- but it's using it to track students, grandmothers and others protesting the war

Last October, before the public learned that president Bush had secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without a court order, the Pentagon approached the Senate intelligence committee with an unprecedented request. Military officials wanted the authority to spy on U.S. citizens on American soil, without identifying themselves, in order to collect intelligence about about terrorist threats. The plan was so sweeping, according to congressional sources who reviewed it, that it would have permitted operatives from the Defense Intelligence Agency to spy on dissidents by posing as peace activists and infiltrating anti-war meetings.
The broader threat is that military spies will gradually expand their anti-terrorist mission to include more and more ordinary citizens. "The danger is that we create an apparatus for spying -- and that becomes the essential apparatus of a police state," says Pyle, the former intelligence officer. "It goes from clipping articles to sending people out to watch protesters to taking video and sending it back to the Pentagon. If some kids knock down a power line somewhere, soon they'll be looking at every member of Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front." The military's intelligence gathering got out of hand thirty-five years ago, Pyle observes. "And my sense is," he says, "the bureaucracy forgets stuff like that."
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