Slate recently reported (the original source was the Wall St. Journal) on a relatively new and very wide-ranging surveillance operation. The National Counterterrorism Center, which is located in an unmarked building in McLean, VA, now has the authority to store and monitor the data of innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, using "predictive pattern-matching" to analyze it for suspect behavior.
The Journal said that the NCTC has access to entire federal databases, including flight records, casino employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. Even more alarming is the fact that this data can be given to foreign governments for analysis.
Officials say the surveillance is subject to "rigorous oversight" which has always translated to, "Trust me, I'm from the government."
So when I buy a timer for my granddaughter's science fair project and a lot of fertilizer for my gardens, have I met the predictive pattern-matching criteria? Probably.
Congress doesn't seem enamored of this (and similar) efforts and I trust the privacy watchdog groups will bark at the heels of the government watchers. Biting their ankles is ok with me too.
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