Here Comes Snowden 2.0... And How The Government Determines If You Are A "Terrorist Threat"

Tyler Durden's picture

Moments ago CNN blasted a headline stating that the US believes there is a new, post-Snowden leaker exposing national security. Why? The reason is the following article that was released a few hours ago by the Intercept, and which is an expose on yet another classified system called Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), in which we read: "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." And there is Snowden 2.0.

Aside from this rather stunning revelation, we also learn the following:

  • The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.
  • The government adds names to its databases, or adds information on existing subjects, at a rate of 900 records each day.
  • The CIA uses a previously unknown program, code-named Hydra, to secretly access databases maintained by foreign countries and extract  data to add to the watchlists.
  • 16,000 people, including 1,200 Americans, have been classified as “selectees” who are targeted for enhanced screenings at airports and border crossings.
  • There are 611,000 men on the main terrorist watchlist and 39,000 women.
  • The top five U.S. cities represented on the main watchlist for “known or suspected terrorists” are New York; Dearborn, Mich.; Houston; San Diego; and Chicago. At 96,000 residents, Dearborn is much smaller than the other cities in the top five, suggesting that its significant Muslim population—40 percent of its population is of Arab descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—has been disproportionately targeted for watchlisting.
  • The top “nominating agencies” responsible for placing people on the government’s watchlists are: the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • 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).

Snowden 2.0 speaks:

A U.S. government official told The Intercept that as of November 2013, there were approximately 700,000 people in the Terrorist Screening Database, or TSDB, but declined to provide the current numbers. Last month, the Associated Press, citing federal court filings by government lawyers, reported that there have been 1.5 million names added to the watchlist over the past five years. The government official told The Intercept that was a misinterpretation of the data. “The list has grown somewhat since that time, but is nowhere near the 1.5 million figure cited in recent news reports,” he said. He added that the statistics cited by the Associated Press do not just include nominations of individuals, but also bits of intelligence or biographical information obtained on watchlisted persons.

So how does the US government if you are a "potential terrorist":

Most people placed on the government’s watchlist begin in a larger, classified system known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE). The TIDE database actually allows for targeting people based on far less evidence than the already lax standards used for placing people on the watchlist. A more expansive—and invasive—database, TIDE’s information is shared across the U.S. intelligence community, as well as with commando units from the Special Operations Command and with domestic agencies such as the New York City Police Department.

 

The documents also offer a glimpse into which groups the government is targeting in its counterterrorism mission. The groups with the largest number of targeted people on the main terrorism watchlist—aside from “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”—are al Qaeda in Iraq (73,189), the Taliban (62,794), and al Qaeda (50,446). Those are followed by Hamas (21,913) and Hezbollah (21,199).

 

Although the Obama administration has repeatedly asserted that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula poses the most significant external terrorist threat to the United States, the 8,211 people identified as being tied to the group actually represent the smallest category on the list of the top ten recognized terrorist organizations. AQAP is outnumbered by people suspected of ties to the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network (12,491), the Colombia-based FARC (11,275,) and the Somalia-based al-Shabab (11,547).

 

The documents also reveal that as of last year, the U.S. had designated 3,200 people as “known or suspected terrorists” associated with the war in Syria. Among them were 715 Europeans and Canadians, as well as 41 Americans. Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently claimed that there are more than 12,000 foreign fighters in Syria, including more than 1,000 Westerners and roughly 100 Americans.

 

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.

In shrug chart format:

And the punchline: a dystopia in which Tom Cruise drops out of drone and shoots you before you have even done anything.

“We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge,” says Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

Much more in the full Intercept article.

But wait, because this is where it gets even more surreal.

Presenting the US disinformation propaganda bureau in its full grandure. From HuffPo:

The Associated Press dropped a significant scoop on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that in the last several years the U.S. government's terrorism watch list has doubled.

 

A few minutes after the AP story, then consisting of three paragraphs, was posted at 12:32 p.m., The Intercept published a much more comprehensive article. The original article, which has since been updated and expanded, appears below:

 

 

ap story

 

The government, it turned out, had "spoiled the scoop," an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday's AP story was much friendlier to the government's position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

 

The practice of spoiling a scoop is frowned upon because it destroys trust between the journalist and the subject. In the future, the journalist is much less willing to share the contents of his or her reporting with that subject, which means the subject is given less time, or no time at all, to respond with concerns about the reporting.

 

The government's decision to spoil a story on the topic of national security is especially unusual, given that it has a significant interest in earning the trust of national security reporters so that it can make its case that certain information should remain private.

 

After the AP story ran, The Intercept requested a conference call with the National Counterterrorism Center. A source with knowledge of the call said that the government agency admitted having fed the story to the AP, but didn't think the reporter would publish before The Intercept did. "That was our bad," the official said.

 

Asked by The Intercept editor John Cook if it was the government's policy to feed one outlet's scoop to a friendlier outlet, a silence ensued, followed by the explanation: “We had invested some quality time with Eileen," referring to AP reporter Eileen Sullivan, who the official added had been out to visit the NCTC.

 

"After seeing you had the docs, and the fact we had been working with Eileen, we did feel compelled to give her a heads up," the official said, according to the source. "We thought she would publish after you."

 

...

 

AP spokesman Paul Colford responded to questions about the timing of the stories in a statement to The Huffington Post: "Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter Eileen Sullivan has been covering this territory for a long time. She gathered and reported additional news today as part of her expertise on this subject."

Not even Orwell could have foreseen the government waging such an open propaganda war...

In the meantime, don't be cyncial of the world's most "transparent" administration: be hopeful; after all you still haven't been killed for a crime you never committed.