Pentagon May Close Controversial Spy Unit

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A plan to reorganize Pentagon intelligence activities proposes closing a controversial office that was criticized for improperly storing information on peace activists and others whose actions posed no threat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is considering a recommendation to shut down the Counterintelligence Field Activity office and put some of its operations under the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"Bringing together what had been separate DIA and CIFA counterintelligence entities is expected to further enhance unity of effort," said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman. "If approved, the purpose of the realignment would be to strengthen the department's - and the nation's - capabilities in both" counterintelligence and human intelligence.

He said Congress and employees of the office have been advised of the rationale for such a move.

Officials had already announced in August that they were shutting down the TALON anti-terror database produced by the office and created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to keep information on reported potential threats to military facilities and personnel.

Pentagon officials have said the program was productive and had detected international terrorist interests at specific military bases. But they also acknowledged that some officials may not have been using the system properly.

It was disclosed in December 2005 that the system included data on anti-military protests and other peaceful demonstrations, drawing criticism from anti-war groups and other organizations who saw it as domestic spying.