National Counterterrorism Center gets insane new power over private data on Americans

By End the Lie

Barack Obama with (now former) NCTC Director Michael Leiter, center right, leadership and analysts in the secure video teleconference room at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va, Oct. 6, 2009. (Image credit: White House/Samantha Appleton)

Just when you thought the ludicrously paranoid federal government of the United States of America couldn’t get any worse; Attorney General Eric Holder signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

The American Big Brother surveillance state has grown exponentially over recent years and it does not look like it is going to be slowing down any time soon with the new guidelines which allow private data on Americans to be held when there is no suspicion of them being tied to terrorism for a whopping five years.

Keep in mind, internet service providers just announced that they will soon be engaging in the largest digital spying operation in history, along with the National Security Agency (NSA) building a behemoth data center to process information, which could include just about anything.

Now the NCTC is getting even more power from the Obama administration, something akin to the George W. Bush-era “Total Information Awareness” program which was supposedly partially shut down by Congress.

For those who are unaware, the NCTC was established by Presidential Executive Order 13354 in 2004 and later actually codified by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. They are in an interesting position given that they report directly to the President and to the Director of National Intelligence, while following the policy dictated by the President and the National and Homeland Security Councils.

Their primary focus is the collection and sharing of information, supposedly related to terrorism, but thanks to the new guidelines, they really don’t need to even pretend it is about terrorism anymore.

Their information sharing reach goes far and wide, including the intelligence community and “State, Local, Tribal, and Private partners – in coordination with DHS, FBI, and other members of the ITACG Advisory Council,” according to the official website.

Anyone who has been following these issues likely realizes that the federal government just repackaged the Total Information Awareness program.

Now it exists as a much more distributed network of data harvesting and analysis systems involving both private and public entities.

Much of the raw data mining work has been taken up by Silicon Valley giants and the technology sector, but now the NCTC will be better able to openly utilize this information against Americans who have absolutely no links to terrorism whatsoever.

While the guidelines are public, I seriously doubt that the public document is the true, complete guide for their operations.

Seeing as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seems to have absolutely no problem blatantly deceiving Congress, I see no reason to believe that the government would be upfront with the American people about anything these days. After all, they won’t even tell us why they have decided that it is legal to kill us.

These new guidelines are expected to result in the NCTC cloning entire databases of personal information on Americans, which they then will data mine using highly complex algorithms which supposedly can search for patterns that might indicate a possible, potential threat.

According to unnamed intelligence officials cited by the New York Times, these new guidelines have been under development for some 18 months.

They claim that they came in the wake of the designed-to-fail “underwear bomber” attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

They claim that after the fact, they discovered that they had intercepted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) communications and a report from the United States Consulate in Nigeria which could have identified Abdulmutallab before he was shuffled on to a plane by a U.S. government agent, according to eyewitness and practicing attorney Kurt Haskell.

These changes will supposedly allow analysts to identify suspected terrorists more quickly, yet Abdulmutallab’s father attempted to warn both the United States and Nigeria about what his son was doing.

Haskell’s testimony is interesting to say the least.

Dutch counterterrorism officials claimed that Abdulmutallab had a valid Nigerian passport when he boarded the flight, also citing security footage which did not show any accomplices.

When Haskell encouraged them to put out the video to prove him wrong, U.S. officials then claimed that they were trying to identify and find the well-dressed man with the American accent that ushered Abdulmutallab on to the plane, adding that they believed he was there to make sure Abdulmutallab “did not get cold feet.”

“There is a genuine operational need to try to get us into a position where we can make the maximum use of the information the government already has to protect people,” said Robert S. Litt, the general counsel in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the National Counterterrorism Center.

This is the typical justification evoked by those who would love to see nothing more than every single last one of our rights stripped away from us in the name of safety.

“We have to manage to do that in a way that provides protection to people’s civil liberties and privacy. And I really think this has been a good-faith and reasonably successful effort to do that,” Litt added.

However, there has been absolutely no protection of people’s civil liberties or privacy, in fact their “good-faith and reasonably successful effort” has led directly to increased monitoring of the internet by DHS, which has been objected to by Representative Jackie Speier, not to mention the complete eradication of the right to due process and Eric Holder’s declaration that they have the legal authority to assassinate Americans.

What few civil liberties we have left and what miniscule shred of privacy remains is being quickly swept away, as evidenced by these new NCTC guidelines.

The NCTC has already created a list of databases to copy in their entirety – which Litt and others refuse to detail – and the DHS already shares a great deal of information, including biometric databases, as revealed by a FOIA lawsuit in November of last year.

These new guidelines were also signed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.

The previous guidelines issued in 2008 outlined three ways for the NCTC to gather information on Americans collected by another agency.

These options were: conducting a “limited” search for the target data on their own, asking another agency to perform the search, or by copying the entire database and analyzing the information at the NCTC.

Of course such division between agencies now are little more than theater, one example being the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which green-lighting nearly all of the requests they get for years.

If the NCTC asks an agency to conduct a search, I seriously doubt that the NCTC would have to ask twice, and it is likely the case that the agency would just hand over the entire database.

After all, our tyrannical federal government has been making a concerted effort to break down any and all barriers (many of which are highly beneficial to the rights, privacy and safety of Americans) through such centers as the NCTC and the nationwide Fusion Centers.

While the new NCTC guidelines will keep these three methods in place, they are placing a strong emphasis on the third option, likely because they want to collect and analyze as much private information on Americans as humanly possible.

Handling data of this magnitude will be quite a bit easier when the NSA’s new data center is finished. Remember, all of these agencies work hand in hand.

The new guidelines allow for private information on Americans with no suspected ties to terrorism to be held for five years, although I suspect in actuality it will be much longer.

This is because the previous guidelines instructed the NCTC to delete data on innocent Americas promptly, which they somehow decided was 180 days if no ties to terrorism were detected.

Furthermore, the first two options do not allow the “pattern analysis” techniques the NCTC loves so much, but there are no restrictions on cloned databases.

The executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has raised concerns about how these new guidelines could come into play with the many proposals to give the government increased access to a wide range of information and networks under the guise of protecting critical infrastructure.

I have been covering this issue as much as possible, including McCain’s proposal which would give the power to the NSA and the military, along with the alternative proposal which would give the power to the DHS.

Both of these proposals follow the recommendations made by a report published by MIT which had a laundry list of corporate “advisers” who would directly benefit from such legislation. In effect, they are identical; it is just a matter of which alphabet agency will be the standard bearer.

These new guidelines do not mention how data mined from commercial sources — such as credit card records, travel records, etc — will be used, but the NCTC’s partnership with the private sector is far from reassuring.

Furthermore, back in 2009 Wired’s Threat Level got their hands on a list of the databases which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) acquired.

As noted above, the FBI is one of the NCTC’s many government partners when it comes to sharing information, which means we can assume that the NCTC has all of the databases the FBI has obtained.

These databases included almost 200 million records of private information belonging to Americans which was obtained through private so-called “data brokers” like ChoicePoint. They also included some 55,000 records from Wyndham hotels and this was only what was obtained from a single agency a single time in 2009.

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4 Responses to National Counterterrorism Center gets insane new power over private data on Americans

  1. Anonymous March 23, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    How stupid do you have to be to fall for the under wear bomber story? I mean seriously. You’d have to be literally retarded.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous June 5, 2012 at 12:36 AM

    WOW. Seriously who thinks this is at all acceptable?! They are just spitting in our faces. No links to terrorism? AKA EVERYONE.

    Reply
  3. Beverly Armstrong November 28, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    I am shocked by the lack of integrity of our leaders. Making the USA a police state, under a dictatorship that spits on the US Constitution. Citizens rights have been violated daily, our president doesn’t know when he is lying or telling the truth anymore. Our police force is a cruel joke of horror stories, one out of every four citizens are imprisoned. When did judges start building prisons? Our food, water, air and soil is poison. Now you have gone totally insane with more fear tactics. You see the enemy everywhere, even in a baby’s eyes. Our police kill 250,000 pet every year, mostly for sport. They are in no danger. Our government has a guilty conscience, it has declared war on it’s own citizens. It is the aggressor, and the insane one. STOP NOW, and seek mental health care. You have gone mad. You have murdered so long without a conscience, showing no mercy, or compassion, you are sick and twisted by it. How many millions have you murdered, do you even know? How many Americans have you butchered with you cancers and aids, poison baby shot, poison milk and eggs. You are sick!
    Obama runs around with a kill list, how sane is that? Mental!

    Reply
  4. Beverly Armstrong November 28, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Keep your sick twisted hands off the American people.

    Reply

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