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US will start spying on home grown terrorists

by on26 October 2017

Finally realised that those are the main threat

US spooks are finally turning their considerable tech spying power on to the white men with guns who do most of the terrorism in the country.

In the old days, US spooks had to prove that there was a link to a foreign terrorist organisation before they could start hacking into a suspect's mobile phone. This caused a fair number of problems because a large amount of terrorists attacks were carried out by those who had no links to terror groups.

Practically this meant they spent a lot of time hassling Muslims when most domestic terrorism was caused by white right-wing blokes.  Out of 201 terrorist incidents on US soil from January 2008 to the end of 2016, the database shows 115 cases by right-wing extremists - from white supremacists to militias to “sovereign citizens” - compared to 63 cases by Islamist extremists. Incidents from left-wing extremists, which include ecoterrorists and animal rights militants, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents. 

The change appears in a Department of Defense manual on procedures governing its intelligence activities. It was made possible by a decades old presidential executive order, bypassing congressional and court review.

The new manual, released in August 2016, now permits the collection of information about Americans for counterintelligence purposes “when no specific connection to foreign terrorist(s) has been established”, according to training slides created last year by the Air  Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).

The slides list the shooting attacks in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015 and Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 as examples that would fall under the "homegrown violent extremist" category. The shooters had declared fealty to Islamic State shortly before or during the attacks, but investigators found no actual links to IS.

Michael Mahar, the Department of Defense’s senior intelligence oversight official, said in an interview that AFOSI and other military counterintelligence agencies are allowed to investigate both active duty and US civilian personnel as long as there is a potential case connected to the military. Investigations of civilians are carried out cooperatively with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mahar said.

Under the previous Defense Department manual’s definition of counterintelligence activity, which was published in 1982, the US government was required to demonstrate a target was working on behalf of the goals of a foreign power or terrorist group.

Some privacy and civil liberties advocates who have seen the training slides are alarmed by the change because it could increase the number of US citizens who can be monitored under an executive order that lacks sufficient oversight.

Last modified on 26 October 2017
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