The Electronic Frontier Foundation has forced the Pentagon to release over 800 pages of classified material documenting "possibly illegal" spying during the Bush administration. The heavily redacted documents include details of a spying program against Planned Parenthood and white supremacist groups in the runup to the Atlanta Olympics, as well as spying on Alaskans for Peace and Justice, an anti-recruiting group, civilian cell phone conversations, and other breaches of spying laws.
The rubric of spying is that it needs to take place to stop people who are acting illegally or may act illegally. When spies break the law, they commit the infraction that they claim to have dedicated themselves to preventing.
Pertaining to the Planned Parenthood members, for example, the oversight report provides no explanation about how the information was collected. Nor does it indicate why the information was collected and notes only that military intelligence is not allowed to collect and disseminate information on U.S. persons unless the information constitutes "foreign intelligence." The report indicates that the collection was therefore "clearly outside the purview of military intelligence" and should have been handled by law enforcement.
Another oversight document discusses an incident involving the interception of civilian cellphone conversations of U.S. persons in April 2007. During a field exercise at Fort Polk, Louisiana, a Signals Intelligence noncommissioned officer operating a SIGINT collection system intercepted the cell phone calls, though the document doesn't indicate if they were intercepted on U.S. soil or outside U.S. borders.
Initial reports indicated that the officer listened to the conversations for entertainment purposes, and the incident was reported to the National Security Agency. But the inspector-general document indicates that the officer never admitted to this and indicates only that he may have listened to some conversations "longer than necessary to do his job."
(Image: Planned Parenthood Fan Page Profile Photo, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from cambodia4kidsorg's photostream)