◼ In a secret government agreement granted without approval or debate from lawmakers, the U.S. attorney general recently gave the National Counterterrorism Center sweeping new powers to store dossiers on U.S. citizens, even if they are not suspected of a crime, according to a news report. - Kim Zetter/Wired.com
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder granted the center the ability to copy entire government databases holding information on flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and other data, and to store it for up to five years, even without suspicion that someone in the database has committed a crime, according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.
Whereas previously the law prohibited the center from storing data compilations on U.S. citizens unless they were suspected of terrorist activity or were relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation, the new powers give the center the ability to not only collect and store vast databases of information but also to trawl through and analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior in order to uncover activity that could launch an investigation.
The changes granted by Holder would also allow databases containing information about U.S. citizens to be shared with foreign governments for their own analysis.
A former senior White House official told the Journal that the new changes were “breathtaking in scope.”
...Under the new rules issued in March, the NCTC can now obtain almost any other government database that it claims is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” This could conceivably include collections of financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages or even the health records of anyone who sought mental or physical treatment at government-run hospitals, such as Veterans Administration facilities, the paper notes.
The Obama administration’s new rules come after previous surveillance proposals were struck down during the Bush administration, following widespread condemnation....
◼ U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens - Julia Angwin
Not everyone was on board. "This is a sea change in the way that the government interacts with the general public," Mary Ellen Callahan, chief privacy officer of the Department of Homeland Security, argued in the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.
A week later, the attorney general signed the changes into effect.