As part of its expanded powers under the guise of
“homeland security,” the federal government is developing interlinked
databases that will track financial transactions, phone calls, Internet
activity, gun ownership and even vehicle use of all Americans, Capitol
Hill Blue has learned.
One such database, the Orwellian-sounding Total Information Awareness System, is a Pentagon-based computer project headed by former Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter, director of the Information Awareness Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that originally developed the Internet.
Another database, under development by the Justice Department with the full approval of Attorney General John Ashcroft, will catalog gun owners in the U.S. Using information gathered from states that require gun registration, along with data from Brady Bill background checks, criminal records, credit card transactions and other records, the database will be able to determine who owns guns, what they own and even when they buy ammunition for their weapons.
“The data is out there. We just need to pull it all into one place, analyze it and then put it in perspective,” says one highly-placed Justice Department source.
Another database under Justice Department development is pulling vehicle registration records from state department of motor vehicle files and then matching that data against credit card transactions, traffic tickets, etc. By cross referencing that data, law enforcement officials can know when a person buys a car, what kind of car it is, where they drive (through gas purchases) and what equipment they have.
“What is under development here is a coordinated effort to pull together all the available data on every American who works, banks, buys on credit, purchases a firearm or sends an email on the Internet,” says computer security expert Allen Eagleton. “In most cases, the information is out there, available in widely-scattered databases. This is a massive effort to bring all this data together to build personal profiles on as many Americans as possible.”
Here’s how the system, when fully deployed, will work:
-The Total Information Awareness System at the Pentagon will track day-to-day activities of Americans through their bank accounts, credit card records, phone bills, Internet use and email.
-That information is then matched electronically with gun ownership records compiled by the Justice Department along with vehicle and driver’s license records kept by state governments, traffic ticket information in department of motor vehicle records, criminal information kept by the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) and other databases.
-Additional information is added from a variety of sources: the electronic tags used by motorists on toll roads, frequent flyer and frequent buyer records kept by airlines and merchants.
-Other information compiled by the systems will include tips from your neighbors, medical records, applications for insurance and thousands of other individual pieces of data stored in computer databanks around the world.
-When additional information is required, the government has plans to use telephone pollsters to call Americans and ask specific questions designed to fill in blanks on profiles.
-The information is then cross referenced and used to build profiles of any and all Americans in the system.
“The potential for such a system is enormous,” says Eagleton. “It will allow someone to build a complete dossier on virtually any person in seconds.”
Because of recent secret court rulings in the federal government favor, along with expanded wiretap, surveillance and information-gathering capabilities granted by legislation under the USA Patriot Act and that creating the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government can gather this information without court order and other protections usually provided by U.S. law.
The Pentagon computer, for example, will connect with bank and credit card databases of all Americans who have a checking account or who carry plastic in their wallets and will track all usage around the clock.
“Such capability is necessary if we want to prevent future attacks against the United States,” says a Pentagon official involved in the project. “We must have the ability to track the activities of our enemies.”
“But the system does not make a determination of who is an enemy and who is just an ordinary American going about their lives,” says Eagleton. “The potential for misuse is enormous.”
Even some top law enforcement officials express private concern over the depth of information the feds will gather with the new databases and other question having the DARPA and Poindexter involved in such a project.
Poindexter was national security adviser to former President Reagan from 1985-1986 and was a key figure in the covert plan known as Iran-Contra to trade weapons for the Americans that Iran held hostage. He was convicted of five felony counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents and obstructing the congressional inquiry into the affair. His convictions were overturned on appeal because testimony given by Poindexter to Congress under a grant of immunity was unfairly used against him at trial.
“Poindexter’s involvement raises serious issues,” says retired FBI agent Allen Matthews. “Why a man with his background would be involved in such a sensitive project amazes me.”
Matthews is also surprised that a gun owner database is being developed under an Ashcroft-run Justice Department.
“This is an administration that is generally considered to be pro-gun owner yet they are developing a system that will let the federal government know who owns guns, what guns they own and even when they are buying ammo to use in those guns,” he added.
Eagleton says Americans had better get used to the fact that everything they do will be monitored and recorded.
“If you are going to visit family this Thanksgiving, think about this,” he said. “When you turn on the alarm in your house, the security company computer system will record that and a database will know you’ve left home.
"When you will fill up your SUV along the route, the gas company credit card computers will record that information instantly.
"When you pay for lunch with your credit card at a Cracker Barrel, the bank will know where you are. And when you call back home to check your voice mail, the phone company will record the phone you called from.
"All of this information will go to the government and they will know when you left home, the route you took and where you are for Thanksgiving dinner.
"And if you go turkey hunting this Thanksgiving, Uncle Sam can know what kind of gun you use to shoot turkey and just what load of bird shot you're using in it."
Calls to the Justice Department, Pentagon and White House seeking comment on this article were not returned.
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