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09/06/2020 | US - US Defense Intelligence Agency responds to claims it was asked to spy on protesters

Joseph Fitsanakis

The United States Defense Intelligence Agency, a Pentagon organization tasked with collecting foreign military secrets, has rejected reports that it is spying on protestors inside the country.

 

However, it confirmed that it has set up an “internal coordination group” to respond to “requests for information” by the Department of Defense. This development follows reports that some DIA employees communicated their concerns about being asked to spy domestically to the organization’s director last week.

Several government agencies are reportedly involved in monitoring the waves of protests that have reputed  throughout the United States in recent weeks, following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, 46, died on May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis. His death, which was captured on video by a bystander, has prompted nationwide calls for police accountability and regulation of excessive force by police officers, especially against members of minority groups.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has responded to the demonstrations —some of which have turned violent— with a show of force involving a wide range of federal law enforcement agencies. This is especially true in the nation’s capital, where military personnel have been repeatedly deployed to help police monitor and control the protests. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported that the Trump administration authorized the Drug Enforcement Administration to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on individuals and groups participating in the protests.

Now Yahoo News reports that some DIA employees are wondering whether their agency might follow suit. The DIA operates under the US Department of Defense and collects foreign military intelligence. Like the Central Intelligence Agency, the DIA is prevented by law from spying domestically. However, its personnel can support domestic intelligence efforts, providing they are detailed to a domestic law enforcement agency for specific operations or tasks.

According to Yahoo News’s Jenna McLaughlin, the possibility that DIA personnel might be assigned to domestic intelligence tasks relating to the nationwide protests was discussed last week during an agency-forum. The unclassified forum —called a “virtual town hall” was led last Wednesday by DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley. McLaughlin cites “two sources” who were “briefed on what happened during the town hall”. They said that Gen. Ashley was asked by a DIA employee about the agency’s position on domestic intelligence operations. “We have been told that DIA is setting up a task force on ‘unrest’ in our country”, said the employee. “Is this true? Is it legal given intelligence oversight? What options will there be for employees who are morally opposed to such an effort?”

According to McLaughlin, the DIA director responded that the agency’s “core mission is foreign intelligence” and that it is “focused on the foreign nexus”. Gen. Ashley’s words were interpreted to mean that the DIA had been asked to investigate possible interference in the protests by foreign intelligence agencies —possibly in a manner similar to the meddling by Russian spies in the 2016 US elections. He added that the DIA’s Office of the General Counsel had “reviewed the issue to ensure that [the agency] was in compliance with the law”. However, Gen. Ashley did not explain whether the DIA had proceeded to carry out such an investigation.

On Saturday, DIA spokesman James M. Kudla told Yahoo News that the agency had set up “an internal coordination group to respond to increased and appropriate Department requests for information”. However, he added that “the mission of the Defense Intelligence Agency is to provide intelligence on foreign militaries to prevent and win wars”. He went on to say that “any claims that DIA has taken on  a domestic mission are false”. The “DIA has not established any task force related to the current domestic situation”, he said.


https://intelnews.org/2020/06/08/01-2799/

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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