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Fri Dec 14, 2012, 03:12 AM

The Surveillance State Grows Another Tentacle

Unfortunately, NCTC didn't have the resources to "exhaustively" pursue the torrent of leads it began receiving. So it fell behind. Late last year, after Homeland Security had given NCTC a database on condition that it purge the names of all innocent persons within 30 days, things came to a head. Homeland Security eventually revoked NCTC's access to the data and NCTC decided it needed to operate under different rules. In particular, it wanted unlimited access to all government agency information for as long as it needed it, including both suspects and non-suspects alike. In March, after discussion at the White House, Eric Holder granted their request.

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. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.

Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. 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.

...."It's breathtaking" in its scope, said a former senior administration official familiar with the White House debate....Under the new rules, [NCTC] can obtain almost any database the government collects that it says is "reasonably believed" to contain "terrorism information." The list could potentially include almost any government database, from financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages to the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals.
We've been through this before, of course, but public outcry put an end to Total Information Awareness, the Bush-era data-mining program designed to trawl through every byte of data that anyone anywhere had ever collected about you. This time, though, there's been no outcry. Why? Because, according to the Journal, "For one thing, the debate happened behind closed doors."
Complete article: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424127887324478304578171623040640006-lMyQjAxMTAyMDEwMzExNDMyWj.html?mod=wsj_valettop_email

President Obama has overseen the most extensive invasion of our rights. He has expanded the ability for agencies and others to snoop in a myriad of ways. This is all under the goal of stopping terrorism.
This is just sad and maddening. They can collect all the info known to man, but it will get them no closer to catching terrorists. The best way to do that is to watch for certain behaviors and connections between people in the real world.
Unless they can write algorithms that can sort through this data and look for MEANINGFUL info, then all they have is eleventy billion files. They will need parallel computers with fast speeds to deliver it in a timely manner. Even then, the output is only as good as the algorithm.
Of course, now they can snoop for anything, terrorism or not.

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