By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 19, 2005; Page A10
The Pentagon’s newest counterterrorism agency, charged with protecting military facilities and personnel wherever they are, is carrying out intelligence collection, analysis and operations within the United States and abroad, according to a Pentagon fact sheet on the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, provided to The Washington Post.
CIFA is a three-year-old agency whose size and budget remain secret. It has grown from an agency that coordinated policy and oversaw the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies to an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and ever-widening authority.
Its Directorate of Field Activities (DX) "assists in preserving the most critical defense assets, disrupting adversaries and helping control the intelligence domain," the fact sheet said. Those roles can range from running roving patrols around military bases and facilities to surveillance of potentially threatening people or organizations inside the United States. The DX also provides "on-site, real time . . . support in hostile areas worldwide to protect both U.S. and host nation personnel from a variety of threats," the fact sheet said.
This is just one illustration of the growth of Pentagon activities in the United States and abroad as part of the terrorism fight. Last week, news accounts revealed that President Bush authorized secret eavesdropping on Americans with suspected ties to terrorist groups.
Another CIFA directorate, the Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement Center, "identifies and assesses threats" to Defense personnel, operations and infrastructure from "insider threats, foreign intelligence services, terrorists, and other clandestine or covert entities," according to the Pentagon.
CIFA manages the Pentagon database that includes Talon reports, consisting of raw, unverified information picked up by the military services on suspicious activities that could involve terrorist threats. The Pentagon acknowledged last week that the Talon database contained reports on peaceful civilian protests and demonstrations that should have been purged long ago under Defense Department regulations.
A third CIFA directorate, Behavioral Sciences, "has 20 psychologists and a multimillion-dollar budget," and supports both "offensive and defensive counterintelligence efforts," according to a government biography of its director, S. Scott Shumate. Shumate was the chief operational psychologist for the CIA’s counterterrorism center until 2003. His group has also provided a "team of renowned forensic psychologists [who] are engaged in risk assessments of the Guantanamo Bay detainees," according to his biography.
A Pentagon official said none of Shumate’s team members questions detainees as part of helping produce threat reports, though they may relay questions to the interrogators.
A former senior Pentagon intelligence official, familiar with CIFA, said yesterday, "They started with force protection from terrorists, but when you go down that road, you soon are into everything . . . where terrorists get their money, who they see, who they deal with."
He added, noting that there had been no congressional oversight of CIFA, that the Defense Department is "too big, too rich an organization and should not be left unfettered. They rush in where there is a vacuum."
A former senior counterterrorism official, also familiar with CIFA, said, "What you are seeing is the militarization of counterterrorism."
CIFA’s authority is still growing. In a new move to centralize all counterterrorism intelligence collection inside the United States, the Defense Department this month gave CIFA authority to task domestic investigations and operations by the counterintelligence units of the military services.
The tasking authority allows CIFA to assign Defense counterintelligence organizations "to execute a specific mission or conduct a function falling within that organization’s charter," according to a Dec. 1 memo signed by Robert W. Rogalski, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for counterintelligence and security, that was provided to The Post.
CIFA’s new authority will give the agency the ability to propose missions to Army, Navy and Air Force units, which combined have about 4,000 trained active, reserve and civilian investigators in the United States and abroad. For example, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) has 1,935 "federally credentialed special agents," according to its Web site. The military service agents investigate crime and terrorism.
By comparison, the FBI recently disclosed it has about 11,000 special agents overall, about 4,929 of whom are assigned to terrorism investigation. Of those, the FBI has 103 assigned to its Joint Terrorism Task Force. The Navy Criminal Investigation Service has reported that it has 34 of its operational people assigned to joint terrorism units.
The Air Force OSI special agents work on felony crimes and drug use, but threat detection has increasingly become a focus. "AFOSI manages offensive and defensive activities to detect, counter and destroy the effectiveness of hostile intelligence services and terrorist groups that target the Air Force," according to an official service Web site.
Anti-terrorism teams have been created "to meet the increasing challenges presented by worldwide terrorism," the service said. These groups "provide anti-terrorism, counterterrorism information collections and investigative services to Air Force personnel and units."