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Saturday, March 18, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Pentagon contracted for satellite photos of U.S. locations

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon intelligence agency that kept files on U.S. anti-war activists hired one of the contractors who bribed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., to help it collect data on houses of worship, schools, power plants and other locations in the United States.

MZM, headed by Mitchell Wade, also received three contracts totaling more than $250,000 to provide unspecified "intelligence services" to the White House, according to documents obtained by Knight Ridder.

The White House didn't respond to an inquiry about what those intelligence services entailed.

MZM's Pentagon and White House deals were part of tens of millions of dollars in federal government business that Wade's company attracted beginning in 2002.

MZM and Wade, who pleaded guilty last month to bribing Cunningham and unnamed Defense Department officials to steer work to his firm, are the focus of investigations by the Pentagon and Department of Justice.

In February 2003, MZM won a two-month contract worth $503,144 to provide technical support to the Pentagon's Joint Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA. The top-secret agency was created five months earlier primarily to protect U.S. defense personnel and facilities from foreign terrorists.

The job involved advising CIFA on selecting software and technology designed to ferret out commercial and government data that could be used in what's called a Geospatial Information System (GIS). A GIS system inserts information about geographic locations, such as buildings, into digital maps produced from satellite photographs.

MZM was to "assist the government in identifying and procuring data" on maps, "airports, ports, dams, churches/mosques/synagogues, schools [and] power plants," said the statement of work.

It isn't clear why U.S. intelligence agencies couldn't do the work themselves.

CIFA recently has come under fire after disclosures that it maintained information on individuals and groups involved in peaceful anti-war protests at defense facilities and recruiting offices.

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The information was stored in a database that was supposed to be reserved for reports related to potential foreign terrorist activity.

The disclosure that CIFA was storing information on anti-war activities added to concerns that the Bush administration may have used its war on terrorism to give government agencies expanded power to monitor Americans' finances, associations, travel and other activities.

The administration's domestic-eavesdropping program and FBI monitoring of environmental, animal rights and anti-war groups have also fueled fears. The administration contends that its programs are legal.

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