In the 1970s, army intelligence agents were caught spying on antiwar protesters and Congress passed the Privacy Act, which requires officials seeking information to disclose who they are and what they want the information for.
Now, a provision buried in an intelligence appropriations bill moving through Congress would exempt Pentagon agencies from the Privacy Act, vastly expanding their ability to conduct domestic spy operations.
But recent events show how domestic military intelligence gathering can lead to a government assault on free speech.
In February, Army intelligence officers visited the University of Texas law school days after a student-organized conference on Islamic Law and Women’s Rights. The agents questioned participants and demanded a non-existent roster of attendees. The Army later apologized for acting outside its jurisdiction, but under the new intelligence provision, such investigations may become more common. The intelligence bill is scheduled to go before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow.