None (Liberals won’t anyway) dare call it a police state

U.S. citizens’ now under surveillance of federal government. All U.S. citizens.

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. Data about Americans “reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information” may be permanently retained.

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.

“It’s breathtaking” in its scope, said a former senior administration official familiar with the White House debate.

 

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that searches of “persons, houses, papers and effects” shouldn’t be conducted without “probable cause” that a crime has been committed. But that doesn’t cover records the government creates in the normal course of business with citizens.

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 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.

Previous government proposals to scrutinize massive amounts of data about innocent people have caused an uproar. In 2002, the Pentagon’s research arm proposed a program called Total Information Awareness that sought to analyze both public and private databases for terror clues. It would have been far broader than the NCTC’s current program, examining many nongovernmental pools of data as well.

“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.

Where’s Dollar Bill and his lickspittle crew on all this? Hiding.

19 Comments

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19 responses to “None (Liberals won’t anyway) dare call it a police state

  1. Cos Cobber

    Dollarbill blames Ashcroft!

  2. Damn Straight!

    The overbearing government practices and the Governing Class will be the focus of a revolution by 2015. They want to take care of you. Impossible fact. Every hurricane relief is a disaster. Revolts will become evening news, not broadcasts from White House.

    • Thomas Jefferson

      “What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

    • AJ

      2015: that would be exactly 800 years after Magna Carta we find ourselves at the crossroads again.

  3. Babylon Sister

    Remember the huge leftist uproar about the Patriot Act under the Bush administration? The Patriot Act was far more narrow in scope, comparatively.

    Where is the Supreme Court in this matter?

    • Anonymous

      Don’t be ridiculous – the Supreme Court is busy right now… Gay Marriage is a far more urgent “civil rights” issue than the Fourth Amendment! C’mon Bab-Sis… don’t you understand the concept of triage!

  4. Observer

    The U.S. security apparat has exploded under Obama, which, as history clearly demonstrates, is entirely consistent with the ideology of extreme left wing governments. Dullard Bill and ilk simply haven’t yet grasped that their chocolate flavored god is nothing more than a stalinist at heart. By the time they do, they’ll be standing at the edge of a mass grave waiting for delivery of their very own coups de grace.

  5. AndyD

    Imagine if this happened under Bush, front page outrage in the NYT.

  6. Inagua

    I dissent. The article cited five examples: flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students, financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages, and the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals. If these are the most egregious examples of liberty-threatening invasions of privacy, then the risk is not that great when measured against the (admittedly remote) possibility of identifying a terrorist.

    • It’s every email you ever write or will write, your telephone records, ez-pass travel, and on and on. You may be fine with that – I’m not.

      • Inagua

        As Walt pointed out, I have a pretty boring life, so privacy doesn’t mean that much to me. We are under near constant video surveillance any time we shop, bank, or walk a big city street. Moreover, if you have not done anything wrong, why do you care if Big Brother looks over your shoulder? Perhaps one day an ex-pass record will provide an alibi for an innocent suspect.

        • Mickster

          Inagua, I agree but your missing the point. This is the thin edge of the wedge.
          Think of it this way – how would you like say, some employer interviewing your grand-daughter in a few years, looking up her data and being able to see that she had bulimia as a child in middle school. Or seeing that her father or mother took anti-depressants for years. It goes on and on.

          Should everybody know everything about everybody?

          The likes of Google is amassing vast data on our online behavior, the consequences of which won’t be obvious for years but will be available to customers who pay them.

          if I as a business or a college recruiting have access to how long a candidate spent on porn or game sites or instant messaging his/her partner, is this good for the community. Does society benefit from this freedom of information? I don’t think so.

          Be careful what you wish for.

        • AJ

          “Moreover, if you have not done anything wrong, why do you care if Big Brother looks over your shoulder?”

          ???, You may not care whether big brother looks over your shoulder, but do you really think they care whether or not you’ve done something wrong? They regularly plant drugs on people just to make their numbers look good — How’s that for not doing anything wrong? ‘NYPD Narcotics Detective Admits Cops Regularly Plant Drugs On Perps’ http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2012/12/nypd-narcotics-detective-admits-cops-regularly-plant-drugs-on-perps-2509688.html

          They will seize your assets before you’ve been convicted of anything. They will seize travelers money on “routine traffic pullovers” if they’re carrying cash (even if they have atm receipts) as proceeds of crime and it’s up to the victim to prove it’s not, just like highway men of old except these are cops. And of course they search out and target people with juicy assets as they drool over potential proceeds of crime loot they can steal.

          But most of all, they just want you to all be their bitch: ‘Electroshock torture handcuffs now patented: Delivers shocking torture, ‘gas injections’ and ‘chemical restraints’ to prisoners via remote control’ — http://www.naturalnews.com/038320_electroshock_torture_handcuffs_patent.html

        • Inagua

          Mickster – You make a good point about medical records. I suspect that the snoopers would say that “we” paid for the treatment, so “we” are entitled to know about it. I also like your point about porn and video games. But why shouldn’t a college or employer know that an applicant can’t get a real live girl or wastes a lot of time on video games?

          Technology is remorsefully diminishing privacy, probably to the near vanishing point, and whether one objects or accepts it will probably make no difference. Finally, about 99% of all people lead lives of exquisite boredom and emptiness, and they should therefore have nothing to justifiably fear from the loss of privacy.

        • Inagua

          AJ – I share your abhorrence at the abuses of government power that you cite, but these type of offenses occur independent of Big Brother snooping.

  7. Anonymous

    Hey. Become a bank CEO and be immune from prosecution

  8. Anonymous

    Hey. Become a Deomcratic Congressman or Gorvenor and be immune from prosecution.