Illustrating just how close big brother is watching, the Obama Justice Department has secretly granted the government broad new powers to gather and keep personal information about ordinary U.S. citizens not suspected of any crimes.
It’s an unprecedented move by any administration that’s outraged even the powerful leftist civil rights groups that usually support the president. The public was kept in the dark as the controversial measure was quietly enacted by Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this year without input or discussion from legislators under the auspice of fighting terrorism.
Details were uncovered by a mainstream newspaper that pieced together how the attorney general helped counterterrorism officials who wanted to create a government dragnet by sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens, even those not suspected of any crimes. Some top officials opposed the idea of this unprecedented government surveillance of U.S. citizens, according to the story, but Holder signed the changes into effect anyways.
The measure grants the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) the power to store dossiers on ordinary citizens, including flight records, casino-employee lists, those hosting foreign exchange students and other personal data for up to five years. There need not be any suspicion that the person presents any sort of danger or has committed any crimes. The idea is to study for “suspicious patterns of behavior.”
Under the changes the NCTC can also give foreign governments information on American civilians so that they can conduct analysis of their own on our citizens. One former senior Obama White House official calls it “breathtaking” in its scope. A top Homeland Security official who fought the changes says “this is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public.”
Though little is known about the NCTC, it does appear to serve a purpose by keeping a database, known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), of more than 500,000 people suspected of terrorist activities or having terrorist ties. Under the new rules the government has the green light to gather and store anything it wants on any U.S. citizen, including everything from in health records to financial forms.
This seems to be in direct conflict with a law passed by Congress in the mid 70s specifically to prevent federal agents from rummaging through government files indiscriminately. The measure prohibits government agencies from sharing data with each other for purposes that aren’t “compatible” with the reason the data were originally collected.