The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants to warn you about "the biggest new spying program you've probably never heard of" at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
Some of the grim details:
On March 22, 2012 the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Director of NCTC issued an update to the 2008 rules for handling information on US persons. These were radical changes (to see how different please check out redline comparison we did between the 2008 and 2012 guidelines).
The biggest change regards the NCTC's handling of "non-terrorism" related information on US persons. Previously, the intelligence community was barred from collecting information about ordinary Americans unless the person was a terror suspect or part of an actual investigation. When the NCTC gobbled up huge data sets it had to search for and identify any innocent US person information inadvertently collected, and discard it within 180 days…..The 2012 guidelines eliminate this check, allowing NCTC to collect and "continually assess" information on innocent Americans for up to five years.
Once information is acquired, the new guidelines authorize broad new search powers. As long NCTC says its search is aimed at identifying terrorism information, it may conduct queries that involve non-terrorism data points and pattern-based searches and analysis (data mining). The breadth and wrongheadedness of these changes are particularly noteworthy. Not only do they mean that anytime you interact with any government agency you essentially enter a lineup as a potential terrorist, they also rely on a technique, datamining, which has been thoroughly discredited as a useful tool for identifying terrorists. As far back as 2008 the National Academy of Sciences found that data mining for terrorism was scientifically "not feasible" as a methodology, and likely to have significant negative impacts on privacy and civil liberties.
The government can also share any of that information with any other entity it wants, public or private. People who lived through the days after 9/11 might find all this familiar, and find the words "Total Information Awareness" echoing through their heads.
My blogging about Total Information Awareness, which we thought had gone away, and how it really hadn't, from back in 2004.
My 2010 American Conservative article about the government's increasing efforts and power in surveilling our electronic communications.
Ron Bailey from last year on the important cost-benefit question at the heart of these supersurveillance programs, one the goverment ignores: how much danger are we in from terrorism, anyway? (Not much.)
The ACLU has filed FOIA requests to learn more about how this info-sweep program is working.
ACLU fact sheet on the NCTC.