Free Markets, Free People

US terrorism agency free to use government databases of US citizens

It is coming to the point that it is obvious that the terrorists have won.  Why?  Because they have provided government the excuse to intrude more and more into our lives and government is more than willing to use it.  If this doesn’t bother you, you’re not paying attention:

Top U.S. intelligence officials gathered in the White House Situation Room in March to debate a controversial proposal. Counterterrorism officials wanted to create a government dragnet, sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens—even people suspected of no crime.

Not everyone was on board. “This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public,” Mary Ellen Callahan, chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security, argued in the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.

A week later, the attorney general signed the changes into effect.

Of course the Attorney General signed the changes into effect.  He’s as big a criminal as the rest of them.

What does this do?  Well here, take a look:

The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.

Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited.

Your activities are now presumed to be “suspicious”, one assumes, just by existing and doing the things you’ve always done.  Host a foreign exchange student?  Go under surveillance.  Fly anywhere the government arbitrarily decides is tied into terrorists (or not) it is surveillance for you (can the “no-fly” list be far behind?).  Work in a casino, go onto a surveillance list.

And all of this by unaccountable bureaucrats who have unilaterally decided that your 4th Amendment rights mean zip.  In fact, they claim that the 4th doesn’t apply here.

Congress specifically sought to prevent government agents from rifling through government files indiscriminately when it passed the Federal Privacy Act in 1974. The act prohibits government agencies from sharing data with each other for purposes that aren’t “compatible” with the reason the data were originally collected.

But:

But the Federal Privacy Act allows agencies to exempt themselves from many requirements by placing notices in the Federal Register, the government’s daily publication of proposed rules. In practice, these privacy-act notices are rarely contested by government watchdogs or members of the public. “All you have to do is publish a notice in the Federal Register and you can do whatever you want,” says Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant who advises agencies on how to comply with the Privacy Act.

As a result, the National Counterterrorism Center program’s opponents within the administration—led by Ms. Callahan of Homeland Security—couldn’t argue that the program would violate the law. Instead, they were left to question whether the rules were good policy.

Under the new rules issued in March, the National Counterterrorism Center, known as NCTC, can obtain almost any database the government collects that it says is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” The list could potentially include almost any government database, from financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages to the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals.

So they just exempted themselves without any outcry, without any accountability, without any review.  They just published they were “exempt” from following the law of the land or worrying about 4th Amendment rights.

Here’s the absolutely hilarious “promise” made by these criminals:

Counterterrorism officials say they will be circumspect with the data. “The guidelines provide rigorous oversight to protect the information that we have, for authorized and narrow purposes,” said Alexander Joel, Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the parent agency for the National Counterterrorism Center.

What a load of crap.  If you believe that you’ll believe anything government says.  Human nature says they’ll push this to whatever limit they can manage until someone calls their hand.

And, as if that’s all not bad enough:

The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.

So now our government is free to provide foreign governments with information about you, whether you like it or not.

This isn’t a new idea – here’s a little flashback from a time when people actually raised hell about stuff like this:

“If terrorist organizations are going to plan and execute attacks against the United States, their people must engage in transactions and they will leave signatures,” the program’s promoter, Admiral John Poindexter, said at the time. “We must be able to pick this signal out of the noise.”

Adm. Poindexter’s plans drew fire from across the political spectrum over the privacy implications of sorting through every single document available about U.S. citizens. Conservative columnist William Safire called the plan a “supersnoop’s dream.” Liberal columnist Molly Ivins suggested it could be akin to fascism. Congress eventually defunded the program.

Do you remember this? Do you remember how much hell was raised about this idea?  However now, yeah, not such a big deal:

The National Counterterrorism Center’s ideas faced no similar public resistance. For one thing, the debate happened behind closed doors. In addition, unlike the Pentagon, the NCTC was created in 2004 specifically to use data to connect the dots in the fight against terrorism.

What a surprise.

I’m sorry, I see no reason for an unaccountable Matthew Olsen or his NCTC to know anything about me or have the ability to put a file together about me, keep that information for five years and, on his decision and his decision only, provide the information on me to foreign governments at his whim.

I remember the time the left went bonkers about the “Privacy Act”.  Here’s something real to go bonkers on and what sound do we hear from the left (and the right, for that matter)?

Freakin’ crickets.

~McQ

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20 Responses to US terrorism agency free to use government databases of US citizens

  • You harken back to a time when liberal and conservatives were in tune with the same issue.  Too bad they’ve become so polarized by economic and social issues so as not to be able to gain assent on issues of common importance.

    • Ah yes .. back when both parties weren’t trying to spend us into oblivion.  Now, it’s just part of one party who takes fiscal responsibility seriously.

  • Stems from the idea that we are owned by the state, no the other way around.

    • There is no idea or principle.
       
      It stems from a desire of a minor to control a majority. 

  • Funny, how we didn’t hear about this before the election.
    … let’s see Obama college transcripts in return.

    • “The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own.”
       
      But only to friendly, closely allied governments who need the information to help us find terrorists and who will pinky swear not to disclose it to other governments. Like Pakistan, our close ally in the War On Terror. Or Mexico, our close ally in the War On Drugs. Or France, our close ally in the War Against Anything Anglophile.

  • This won’t be deemed to be a problem until the Republicans gain control of the apparatus. In the meantime why would the left have a problem with this? It’s the authoritarians wet dream.

    • “In secret listening rooms nationwide, NSA software examines every email, phone call, and tweet as they zip by,” reported NSA expert James Bamford in a Wired article. “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target,” an unnamed NSA official told him. Then William Binney, yet another former NSA senior official, “held his thumb and forefinger close together: ‘We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state’.”

      • Big Brother is watching, and listening.

        • Remember the outrage when word of “Total Information Awareness” leaked, after it was already shutdown.
          All we will get this week will be “crickets.”

    • I’m going to insert a note of reality here.
      A cop on the beat watches and listens.  No harm done.  Same with filtering enormous amounts of raw communications though systems looking for key words.  The systems don’t keep the communications, or even understand what was said.  Like a cop on the beat, they watch or listen for flags.
      That is materially different than someone going…without good cause shown…into your doctor’s office, taking your records, keeping them, and mining data from them.

      • After they’ve scanned today’s fount of data, where is it going?   If they didn’t find anything on you today that was curious, but it’s going onto a storage medium, that’s the problem.
         
        On the flip side, one way to overload them is to use their hit list words in everyday communications constantly.   Cloward Piven isn’t the only way to overwhelm a system.   If everyone and his dog starts using the key words what they get is meaningless because they can’t possibly respond to all of it.
         
        Meanwhile, I agree with McQ, Bin Laden won.   We’re standing the ‘free’ country on it’s head to protect ourselves and everyone is a suspect (except people who are likely suspects, that would be profiling!), the police are armed like little city-state armies. – airports, trains, buses, everyday communications.   It’s the war on drugs on crack, and look how well THAT has turned out.
         
        And we’re being told that we’re safer than we were 12 years ago.   Safer from WHO?
         

      • Personally, the best way to combat this sort of idiocracy is to overwhelm it with nonsense.
        I have a friend who attaches a signature to his e-mails that has words and phrases like “AK-47″, “thermonuclear”, “radioactive”, “weaponized”, “nuclear”, “biological”, “chemical”, “NBC” and “MSNBC” to all his e-mails.

  • Gotta take care of all those Zimmerman hate crimes and Ft. Hood workplace violence.
    Heck, might be some folks out there mad about ObamaCare.

  • Remember when the liberals railed against J Edgar Hover and his files on American citizens? Now, they are the “Hoovers”.

  • We’ve swapped possibly being terrorized on a given day by terrorists to being certainly terrorized everyday by government employees.