Military Intelligence

excerpted from the book

The Lawless State

The crimes of the U.S. Inteligence Agencies

by Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage, Christine Marwick

Penguin Books, 1976


In July 1969, the Department of Defense opened a new war room in the basement of the Pentagon. Staffed by some 180 people and packed with all the latest equipment -data processing machines, closed circuit television, teletype networks, elaborate situation maps-the new operation was a marvel of military technology. The most striking aspect, however, was not the imposing technology, but the purposes that were being served. This was not a regular command center but a very special operation-a "domestic war room," the headquarters of the Directorate for Civil Disturbance Planning and Operations. It was the coordinating center for the Pentagon's domestic war operations.

The office, now known as the Division of Military Services, played a central role in the military's widespread intelligence operations against the American people, a sweeping campaign of civilian surveillance which ultimately affected more than 100,000 citizens. In the fall of 1968, there were more Army Counter-lntelligence Analysis Branch personnel assigned to monitor domestic citizen protests than were assigned to any other counter-intelligence operation in the world, including Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War.' In the later part of the 1960s and early 1970s, 1,500 army plainclothes intelligence agents with the services of more than 350 separate offices and record centers watched and infiltrated thousands of legitimate civilian political organizations. Data banks with as many as 100,000 entries each were maintained at intelligence headquarters at Fort Holabird, Maryland, and at Fourth Army headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

As with the FBI and other intelligence agencies, citizens and organizations singled out by military surveillance were those who exercised their right to speak out: the oppressed minorities, advocates of reform, and those on the political "left." The growth of the army intelligence bureaucracy paralleled the growth of dissident protest movements through the 1960s. Military intelligence undercover agents focused on the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, and then moved to the New Left anti-Vietnam War coalitions of later years. No political gathering, no matter how small, was considered insignificant. No distinction was made between groups preaching violent action and those advocating peaceful dissent. Even the most established and nonviolent groups such as the NAACP and the American Friends Service Committee became targets of military surveillance.

With the exception of the FBI, the military intelligence services collected more information on American politics in the sixties than any other federal agency. The army conducted a full-scale Pentagon operation within the United States, and the figures and attitudes reflect this approach. Where a civilian agency might have opened a hundred files, the military created a thousand; the army established CONUS and CONARC intelligence commands, and then reorganized and reinitiated them as USAINTC, the Directorate of Civil Disturbance Planning, and the Division of Military Support. They ran operations with such code names as GARDEN PLOT, ROSE BUSH, PUNCH BLOCK, STEEP HILL, LANTERN SPIKE, QUIET TOWN, GRAM METRIC, and CABLE SPLICER; and they developed intelligence "compendiums," a "mug book," daily, weekly and monthly intelligence summaries, special reports, "city packets," contingency and alternative contingency plans, computerized filing systems, and crossover index files to information. All were based on agent spot reports, radio intercepts, incident and personality files, newspaper clippings and data from numerous civilian sources. Each level of the military hierarchy tried to placate its superiors by collecting as much or more information than the task required, whether it was of any importance or not. The attitude pervading these army operations was best stated by Robert E. Jordan III, general counsel to the army: "the people on the other side were essentially the enemy. The army conducted a de facto war against all citizen protest, legitimate and illegitimate, violent and peaceful, white and black.


With the rise of citizen protest and the involvement of federal troops to control demonstrations during the 1960s- especially in the area of civil rights-the scope and focus of the military's domestic intelligence operations expanded greatly. Often justified as necessary to enforce federal desegregation laws, these intelligence activities were in fact directed primarily against one side of the conflict: the black-civil rights protesters whom the military had ostensibly been called in to protect. Neither white segregationists nor local law enforcement plans or tactics interested the , military as much as did black civil rights groups and their leaders.

By the late 1960s, the direct political nature of military intelligence operations was quite explicit. A telling indication of this was the February 1968 annex to the army's Civil Disturbance Plan, where "dissident elements" and "subversives" were clearly identified as primary targets of surveillance. The activities of the peace movement were judged "detrimental" to the United States, and American antiwar activists were viewed as possible conspirators manipulated by foreign agents. This search for foreign influence within the antiwar and civil rights movements was equally evident in an October 1967 request to the National Security Agency by General William Yarborough seeking "Indications that foreign governments or organizations acting as agents of foreign governments are controlling or attempting to control or influence the activities of U.S. 'peace' groups and 'Black power' organizations. Yarborough also requested available information on identities of United States individuals and organizations in contact with foreign agents, and advice given by agents of foreign governments to groups and foreign agencies seeking to control or influence United States organizations. Yarborough and the army were certain that dissent could not occur without foreign orchestration.

No evidence linking these movements to foreign powers was found, but this did not prevent army officials from continuing to amass files on civilian groups. Military officials viewed civil rights protests and antiwar movements, as programs to overthrow the government rather than legitimate expressions of popular opposition.

In violation of federal statutes, a representative of army intelligence sat on the interagency Intelligence Evaluation Committee, and the army's general counsel served on the Law Enforcement Policy Committee. The army also created a master plan, known as GARDEN PLOT, which provided an outline for standardized procedures to be used for handling civil disturbances by the National Guard, regular armed forces, and civilian authorities. Based on preparations for future disturbances, GARDEN PLOT trained troops for possible deployment, and taught military and civilian leaders how to control these activities in a "war-room" setting. The DOD's domestic war room and twenty-four-hour-per-day monitoring of civilian disturbances were central aspects of GARDEN PLOT.

Military management training was brought to the local level and involved the FBI and other civilian officials. As far back as 1962, J. Edgar Hoover gave the army complete access to FBI files without charges for clerical or computer time, in exchange for the army's agreement to conduct biannual seminars in the philosophy and use of riot-control techniques for more than 200 FBI agents and officials. War games were held to practice coordination. In the U.S. Sixth Army area-including California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona-Cable Splicer III, a GARDEN PLOT operation, simulated demonstrations by radical "leftist" groups on imaginary campuses and high schools along the Pacific Coast. The names selected for the mock groups in these war games indicate the usual targets of military intelligence: "the Scholars Democratic League, on the campuses; the International Brotherhood of Labor Reform, among the blue collar workers; and the International Fraternity of Progress of Non-Caucasian, among the minority groups.

Just twenty-one days after federal troops killed four Kent State students during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, 1,700 military, civilian, and corporate officials met to discuss an after-action report on the war game. Major corporations represented included the Bank of America, Lockheed, Boeing, Sylvania, Pacific Gas and Electric, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, Standard Oil of California, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, SCM, Dictaphone, and the John Hancock Mutual Life lnsurance Co.

with CIA Operation CHAOS and other illegal secret intelligence programs, only public exposure and the threat of congressional action led to the termination of military surveillance activities. Christopher Pyle, a former army intelligence officer, revealed the scope of the military's domestic intelligence activities in the January 1970 issue of the Washington Monthly, charging that "the Army had assembled the essential apparatus of a police state." Several earlier evaluations within the army had expressed "reservations" about the programs or judged them unnecessary and out of control, but it took the Pyle article and widespread public pressure to curb the growth of army spying on American citizens.

Once the wide scope of military domestic activities became clear, it was evident that they had violated both specific statues and the long-standing Anglo-Saxon tradition separating civil law enforcement and the military. The Posse Comitatus Act, originally enacted in 1878, makes it illegal for anyone to use "any part of the Army" to enforce civil laws without a presidential proclamation, and then only as a "last resort," where state and local officials are unable to maintain order. Whether the president and high-level civilian leadership were aware of the widespread military activity throughout the 1960s remains unclear. After examining the matter in as much detail as documents then (and now) available make possible, the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights was able to conclude only that "the highest levels of the Departments of Defense and Justice were or should have been informed."

... military intelligence operations against-American citizens did not end with the 1971 revelations. The practices have continued-though reduced- and the bureaucratic structure remains in place. The current DOD directive governing "Acquisition of Information Concerning Persons and Organizations Not Affiliated with the Department of Defense," issued on December 8, 1975, still contains the same loopholes as previous directives. For example, with the specific approval of the secretary of defense, information may be "acquired which is essential to operational requirements flowing from the mission . . . to assist civil authorities in dealing with civil disturbances." As the Senate Judiciary Committee reported in 1976.

... similar imprecise language in earlier directives was in large part responsible for the abuses of the past. The threat" exception is a loophole that has the potential to nullify the general restrictions embodied in the directive.

In the past, the military has regularly been called in to control civil disturbances and monitor the political activities of American citizens. Despite recent disclosures and guidelines, the potential for rebuilding the domestic war room has been preserved. The teletypes and data processing machines, silent now, may be readied to whir into action at the first sign of domestic protest.

The Lawless State

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