Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Big Brother for the 21st Century: NCTC (a.k.a. New Coercive, Totalizing Compliance)

U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens by Julia Angwin by Dec 12, 2012 The Wall Street Journal

[Excerpted] 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. 

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.

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. 

The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own..... [end excerpt]

Majia here: This article explains that two legal precepts bar this type of surveillance and storage of civilian information: 

The US Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requiring “probable cause” for searches

The Federal Privacy Act of 1974, which prohibits inter-agency sharing of data for unrelated searches.

But, there is an escape clause that is being employed. The Federal Privacy Act allows agency to be exempted from the prohibition of information sharing across agencies for unrelated searches if they place a notice in the Federal Register, which is the federal daily publication of proposed rules. Holy Cow! What an escape clause.

Now the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) doing precisely that. Big Brother has been born and his name is NCTC standing (a.k.a., New Coercive, Totalizing Compliance).

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