What's the first thing you think of when someone says NORAD? For some, it's the bi-national command's tracking of Santa Claus from its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base. For people in tinfoil hats, it represents the government's scheme to spy on its people with a constellation of satellites and radar stations across the United States and Canada.
Now, a report on the Web site called TruthOut should set conspiracy theorists' hair on fire.
The site, which focuses on undercovered issues and unconventional thinking, says Defense Department agencies improperly collected and disseminated intelligence on Planned Parenthood and a white supremacist group called the National Alliance. It also says an Air Force briefing improperly included intelligence on an antiwar group called Alaskans for Peace and Justice, and Army Signals Intelligence in Louisiana unlawfully intercepted civilian cell phone conversations.
It all came to light this week with the release of some 800 "heavily-redacted pages" of intelligence oversight reports in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Pentagon's Inspector General says the activities could be unlawful. Among the findings:
— A North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) briefing improperly included intelligence on an antiwar group called Alaskans for Peace and Justice in 2005.
— A 2006 report showed NORAD had procedural problems relating to collecting information on U.S. citizens.
NORAD officials here say not to worry and issued this statement: "The Department of Defense and the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Inspector General Office have a rigorous intelligence oversight program and conduct annual inspections of our subordinates and component organizations in order to ensure that Intelligence Oversight laws and regulations are properly understood and being used correctly. In the violations noted within the internal DoD report, which date back to 2005 and 2006, the issues were immediately corrected and the organizations underwent retraining and were reevaluated successfully. It’s important to note, the violations were found by the Department of Defense internal inspection efforts and were immediately corrected."