U.S. Military Counterintelligence Activities Raise Privacy Concerns

U.S. Military Counterintelligence Activities Raise Privacy Concerns

Investigators for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) have concluded that, due primarily to a lack of effective centralized training and coordination, DOD personnel involved in previous counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations may have violated Americans' civil liberties when reviewing their financial and other personal records.

According to documents recently released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the department has issued 455 national security letters -- subpoenas that allow authorized government officials to examine, without court order, the personal data of American citizens suspected of involvement in espionage, terrorism, and other activities that threaten the security of the United States -- since the Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act in late 2001. More than half of these letters were issued since 2005.

DOD representatives claim they need to collect such records to counter penetration by hostile intelligence and terrorist groups. In particular, they argue that the financial information can help investigators determine the source of unexplained wealth of DOD personnel.

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