Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Big Brother is now overtly and officially watching you like a hawk

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How the US has changed! Now the government is building, in effect, a dossier on every citizen, keeping close track of their communications and the their movements and their friends and acquaintances and god knows what else. Back in the day, people would not have liked that—especially not the GOP, which hated this sort of thing. But now the idea seems quite popular, and especially with the GOP. (The GOP is the party of small government? give me a break—it’s more the party of intrusive government, wanting the government to regulate our sex lives, telling us who we can and can’t marry, and so on.)

The Associated Press reports:

The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines.

Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.

Giving the NCTC expanded record-retention authority had been called for by members of Congress who said the intelligence community did not connect strands of intelligence held by multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

“Following the failed terrorist attack in December 2009, representatives of the counterterrorism community concluded it is vital for NCTC to be provided with a variety of datasets from various agencies that contain terrorism information,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement late Thursday. “The ability to search against these datasets for up to five years on a continuing basis as these updated guidelines permit will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”

The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.

“It is a vast expansion of the government’s surveillance authority,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said of the five-year retention period. . .

Continue reading. And the inestimable Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times:

The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and serve as a terrorism threat clearinghouse.

The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat.

Intelligence officials on Thursday said the new rules have been under development for about 18 months, and grew out of reviews launched after the failure to connect the dots about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber,” before his Dec. 25, 2009, attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner.

After the failed attack, government agencies discovered they had intercepted communications by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and received a report from a United States Consulate in Nigeria that could have identified the attacker, if the information had been compiled ahead of time.

The changes are intended to allow analysts to more quickly identify terrorism suspects. But they also set off civil-liberties concerns among privacy advocates who invoked the “Total Information Awareness” program. That program, proposed early in the George W. Bush administration and partially shut down by Congress after an outcry, proposed fusing vast archives of electronic records — like travel records, credit card transactions, phone calls and more — and searching for patterns of a hidden terrorist cell. . .

Continue reading. Of course, all those files and data will be quite useful as the government broadens its interest from terrorists to “troublemakers” and dissenters. And now that people can be imprisoned indefinitely merely on suspicion—and put to death on a whim—the country is finding a new direction indeed.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2012 at 9:46 am

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