Obama Administration Allows Counterterrorism Center to Create Database of All U.S. Citizens

Monday, December 17, 2012

Under broad new powers authorized by Attorney General Eric Holder, since March federal counterterrorism officials have been able to collect information on every American citizen, regardless of whether they are suspected of doing anything wrong.

 

The Obama administration quietly authorized the controversial plan that allows the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to collect data on U.S. citizens, even if there is no reason to suspect them.

 

Before Holder gave his okay to the plan, the center was prohibited from storing information about ordinary Americans unless they were considered a terrorism suspect or were connected to an investigation.

 

The Wall Street Journal discovered that some senior intelligence officials opposed the idea. Mary Ellen Callahan, chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security, called it “a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public.”

 

Another official, unidentified by The Wall Street Journal, called it “breathtaking” in scope.

 

The NCTC can now access federal databases containing flight records, information on casino employees, the names of Americans who host foreign-exchange students, and much more.

 

Counterterrorism officials will be able to store this data for up to five years, if a person is deemed innocent. But if the information is in anyway related to possible terrorism, then the center can keep it on file indefinitely.

 

Under the Federal Privacy Act in 1974, agencies are barred from combing through government files about citizens unless they have a legitimate reason to do so. However, the same law allows agencies to exempt themselves from this restriction by merely posting a notice in the Federal Register.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens (by Julia Angwin, Wall Street Journal)

FBI Prepares Billion-Dollar Iris Recognition Database (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Obama and Holder Remove Restrictions on Gathering and Keeping Data about All Americans (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

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