Tuesday, February 01, 2005
NORTHCOM is much more forthright about what it supposedly doesn't do than what it actually does. Its web site repeatedly, in many forms, notes that NORTHCOM is not a police auxiliary and that the Reconstruction-era Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from meddling much in domestic affairs. Despite this, NORTHCOM readily, if somewhat vaguely, admits to "a cooperative relationship with federal agencies" and "information-sharing" among organizations. NORTHCOM's commander Gen. Ralph "Ed" Eberhart, who, the Wall Street Journal notes, is the "first general since the Civil War with operational authority exclusively over military forces within the U.S," was even more blunt when he told PBS's Newshour "[W]e are not going to be out there spying on people[, but] we get information from people who do."
Even putting NORTHCOM aside, the military has recently been creeping into civilian life in all sorts of ways. Back in 2003, for instance, Torch Concepts, an Army sub-contractor, was given JetBlue's entire 5.1 million passenger database, without the knowledge or consent of those on the list, for data-mining – a blatant breach of civilian privacy that the Army nonetheless judged not to violate the federal Privacy Act. Then, in 2004, Army intelligence agents were caught illegally investigating civilians at a conference on Islam at the University of Texas law school in Austin.