Ok folks, we have to serious for a moment here. I’ve read the Washington Post article and I strongly recommend that all you folks do the same. The conclusions based on the information presented in the Washington Post are chilling. If people don’t wake up and start complaining to their elected representatives, our government is going to get away from us. We’ll end up exercising our 2nd Ammendment Rights (Right to Keep & Bear Arms) if we don’t kick up a ruckus about our 4th Ammendment Rights being violated.
The FBI has been abusing the powers it was granted under the Patriot Act in order to investigate ordinary citizens who “are not suspected of any wrongdoing.” There is no Fourth Amendment protection involved since there is no judicial oversight. This means that they are not required to obtain a search warrant. They do not have to establish probable cause or state what it is that they’re looking for, even in the most broad and generic terms. They have been empowered, by means of the “National Security Letters” to pick through our lives.
They now issue about 30,000 of these letters, roughly a 100-fold increase since the Patriot Act. The only statistics on this are maintained with in the agency, many of which are either incomplete or “classified.” To date, they have not been able to offer up a single case where a “National Security Letter” has served to prevent an event or catch a suspected terrorist. It’s ridiculous easy for these “Letters” to be issued – any FBI field supervisor can issue one. Coupled with this is a recent decision to dump all of the data gathered into a single repository so that the data can be shared within the government as well as with outside entities. Previously, the FBI was required to destroy files on any citizen deemed innocent of wrongdoing.
The Washington Post published a five page article on this because the FBI went to a public library to demand usage records, not for specific people, but everyone who used some specific computers at the library during a specific time frame which is apparently a period of days. The library is refusing to comply and is filing suit. However, if the Congress has its way, failure to comply with a “National Security Letter” will become a criminal offense punishable with prison time.
What kind of data are they harvesting you ask? To quote the Washington Post article, “it does permit investigators to trace revealing paths through the private affairs of a modern digital citizen. The records it yields describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.”
Who are they collecting data on? Take Las Vegas, NV as an example. Quoting the Post’s article again, “The Department of Homeland Security declared an orange alert on Dec. 21 of that year, in part because of intelligence that hinted at a New Year’s Eve attack in Las Vegas. The identities of the plotters were unknown. The FBI sent Gurvais Grigg, chief of the bureau’s little-known Proactive Data Exploitation Unit, in an audacious effort to assemble a real-time census of every visitor in the nation’s most-visited city. An average of about 300,000 tourists a day stayed an average of four days each, presenting Grigg’s team with close to a million potential suspects in the ensuing two weeks. An interagency task force began pulling together the records of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in the city.”
The short version is that if you staying or passed through Las Vegas during their target time frame, you’ve been investigated by the FBI and the data they harvested about you is being stored and shared with “private sector entities where appropriate”.