Anybody remember when Bushco proposed to implement a “Total Information Awareness” program to track everyone and everything all the time? Even in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks citizens balked at mass domestic surveillance, and that is really saying something, my friends. I watched in dumbfounded horror as New York City liberals—liberals!—soiled themselves and coughed up excuse after excuse for the evisceration of civil liberties, authoritarian law enforcement tactics and flagrant violations of the constitution and the Bill of Rights that upturned centuries of foundational US law. But going Big Brother on all of us? Well that was a step too far.
It would surprise exactly no one that Bushco went right ahead and did it anyway until Congress shut it down, and then reconstituted it immediately. Nor should it come as a shock to anyone that under Obama the program was renamed and recalibrated with an essentially unlimited mission, to include all “national security threats…to the United States and its interests.” (And we all know what that encompasses.) This time around, the agency would be different:
neither solely a part of the intelligence community (IC) nor solely a law enforcement agency (and yet both), it skirts limitations that exist in each community, allowing it to collect and examine information on people who are not otherwise accused of or suspected of any crime.
Ladies and Gentlemen and People of Other Genders and/or No Gender Whatsoever: I present to you the National Security Analysis Center (NSAC), “an obscure element of the Justice Department that has grown…into a sprawling 400-person, $150 million-a-year multi-agency organization employing almost 300 analysts, the majority of whom are corporate contractors.” NSAC is just another one of dozens of government agencies conducting mass surveillance on US citizens suspected of no crime—and is therefore not subject to any purported limitations placed on the US Department of Defense’s NSA.
[T]he Center can not only gain access to the full gamut of intelligence databases of the U.S. government [including NSA’s], but also query and retain information contained in law enforcement and commercial data.
Using big data analysis to discover non-obvious and even clandestine links, the Center looks not just for suspects, but for what the counter-terrorism world calls “clean skins”—people with no known affiliation to terrorism or crime, needles in a giant haystack that don’t necessarily look like needles. Or people who aren’t needles at all, but who might become needles in the future and thus warrant observation today.
If you have a telephone number that has ever been called by an inmate in a federal prison, registered a change of address with the Postal Service, rented a car from Avis, used a corporate or Sears credit card, applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, or obtained non-driver’s legal identification from a private company, they have you on file.
I for one am glad at least someone is monitoring me because I forwarded my mail when I moved PLUS I used my Macy’s card to buy Christmas presents. Who knows what evil terrorist shenanigans I could be contemplating right this very minute? Or next week or next month or next year and what about that huh?
The linked article concludes:
An internal document provided to Phase Zero describes the Task Force as organizing “data from many divergent public, government and international sources for the purpose of monitoring the electronic footprints of terrorists and their supporters, identifying their behaviors, and providing actionable intelligence to appropriate law enforcement, government agencies, and the intelligence community.” And their supporters. And their supporters. And their supporters. How many mouseclicks away is your name?