• United States



by Dave Gradijan

Pentagon Confirms Security Database Housed Improper Info

Apr 06, 20063 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that a review, initiated after its data-collection efforts regarding U.S. peace activists were brought to light, has found that more than 250 entries were improperly stored in a classified database of potential terrorist threats, Reuters reports.

Bryan Whitman, a senior spokesman with the Pentagon, told Reuters that it’s putting in place additional safeguards on its Talon reporting system, which populates the database, and bumping up oversight to make sure only the proper information is housed in the future.

According to Whitman, “less than 2 percent” of the better than 13,000 entries in the database “should not have been there or should have been removed at a certain point in time,” Reuters reports.

A number of critics blasted the Pentagon, claiming the program was the equivalent of domestic spying on its part. Whitman dismissed such charges, though he did not specify the people involved or what information was collected because the data is classified, according to Reuters. Whitman also noted that in order to be properly placed in the database, threats must have potential links to global terrorism, Reuters reports.

Civilian and military personnel with the Department of Defense populate the database via the Talon system by reporting suspicious activities related to terrorism, according to Reuters. Those reports are then filed in the Cornerstone database, which is managed by the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) agency, Reuter reports. That data can then be turned over to federal or state law enforcement officials, according to Reuters.

Undersecretary of Defense Intelligence Stephen Cambone first ordered the review in December following reports that the Talon system database contained data pertaining to U.S. citizens, including peace activists and others who did not present a legitimate security threat, according to Reuters.

Federal law restricts the Pentagon from collecting certain types of information on people living on U.S. soil, Reuters reports.

In addition to increased oversight of the database, the Pentagon will appoint supervisors to examine every Talon report prior to its entry into the database, and it will order CIFA to perform secondary reviews, according to Reuters.

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties organization, was among the critics of the program. Martin told Reuters, “If the Pentagon has been collecting information improperly on Americans, it should provide a full accounting of what kind of information it has collected, on whom and why, subject only to protecting the privacy of individuals.”

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