Stretch before jogging? You might be a terrorist
As part of its National Security Initiative (NIS) the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, the Department of Justice, and other federal agencies are working with state and local governments as well as private security firms to collect “Suspicious Activity Reports” to be included in the federal government’s counter-terrorism database.
“Suspicious Activity” is defined as “behavior reasonably indicative of preoperational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity.” Alternet points out the problems with this definition:
Note how terrorism is defined as a type of criminal activity. The plaintiffs point out that this definition encompasses constitutionally protected activities, like taking photos, buying computers or standing in a train station. “Reasonably indicative” of terrorism paints with a broad brush. In Los Angeles, suspicious activity includes “joggers who stand and stretch for an inordinate amount of time” while in Kentucky “people avoiding eye contact” are suspect.”
So if you see someone stretching or not making eye contact, say something.
The over classification of “suspicious activity” is no doubt well reason why nearly half of the people in the terrorist database have no tie to a terrorist organization.
The source of that figure is a must-read article from The Intercept. Read the whole article here and read some experts below:
Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.
The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.
“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent. The watchlisting system, he adds, is “revving out of control.”
“You might as well have a blue wand and just pretend there’s magic in it, because that’s what we’re doing with this—pretending that it works,” says former FBI agent Michael German, now a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “These agencies see terrorism as a winning card for them. They get more resources. They know that they can wave that card around and the American public will be very afraid and Congress and the courts will allow them to get away with whatever they’re doing under the national security umbrella.”
According to the documents, the government does much more than simply stop watchlisted people at airports. It also covertly collects and analyzes a wide range of personal information about those individuals –including facial images, fingerprints, and iris scans.
In the aftermath of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing, the Directorate of Terrorist Identities began an aggressive program to collect biometric data and other information on all Americans on the TIDE list. “This project includes record by record research of each person in relevant Department of State and [intelligence community] databases, as well as bulk data requests for information,” the documents note.
The DTI also worked on the subsequent Chicago Marathon, performing “deep dives” for biometric and other data on people in the Midwest whose names were on the TIDE list. In the process, the directorate pulled the TIDE records of every person with an Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin driver license.
DTI’s efforts in Boston and Chicago are part of a broader push to obtain biometric information on the more than one million people targeted in its secret database. This includes hundreds of thousands of people who are not watchlisted. In 2013, the directorate’s Biometric Analysis Branch (BAB) launched an initiative to obtain biometric data from driver’s license records across the country. At least 15 states and the District of Columbia are working with the directorate to facilitate access to facial images from driver’s licenses. In fiscal year 2013, 2,400 such images were provided for inclusion in the secret TIDE database.
According to the documents, BAB offers its “unique skill of facial identification support” to a “broad customer base.” Last year its analysts produced more than 290 reports for other government entities, including the CIA, the New York City Police Department, and the military’s elite Special Operations Command.
All told, the classified documents show, the government compiles strikingly detailed dossiers of data on individuals who have been swept up in its databases. Though some of the documents obtained by The Intercept offer conflicting information on how much biometric data the government collects, the most detailed report shows that:
• In 2013, the main terrorism database included more than 860,000 biometric files on 144,000 people.
• The database contains more than a half a million facial images, nearly a quarter of a million fingerprints and 70,000 iris scans.
• The government maintains biometric data on people that it hasn’t identified–TIDE contains 1,800 “BUPs,” or “biometrics of unknown persons.”
• In a single year, the government expanded its collection of “non-traditional” biometric data, including dramatic increases in handwriting samples (32 percent), signatures (52 percent), scars, marks, and tattoos (70 percent), and DNA strands (90 percent).
Campaign for Liberty will continue to work to end all unconstitutional data collection and spying on the American people.