Updates in the War on Civilian Privacy

war on civil rights

Image from Flickr via jonathan Mcintosh

by Josh Dratel

The war on civilian privacy has escalated. Recently, Congress the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows for the commercial use of surveillance drones in the United States. And in late March, the Obama administration revised guidelines with respect to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center’s retention of data on law-abiding persons.

According to the New York Times, those revisions were designed in part “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.”

Among the revisions is an increase in the length of time—from 180 days to five years—that the NCTC can, according to the Times, which cited intelligence officials, “retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism.” Under the prior guidelines, such information would have to be destroyed after expiration of the 180-day period. Also, as theTimes reported, “the guidelines are also expected to result in the [NCTC] making more copies of entire databases and ‘data mining them’ using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat.”

Security cameras increasingly cover every swath of territory; checkpoints, both governmental and private, abound; surreptitious software can capture every computer keystroke; every e-mail is retrievable, and every phone conversation is capable of interception.

The general counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence characterized the superseded guideline period as “very limiting,” explaining to the Washington Post that “On Day One, you may look at something and think that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Then six months later, all of a sudden, it becomes relevant.”

Read the rest at Guernica.