16 12 / 2012

In a secret government agreement granted without approval or debate from lawmakers, the U.S. attorney general recently gave the National Counterterrorism Center sweeping new powers to store dossiers on U.S. citizens, even if they are not suspected of a crime.

Whereas previously the law prohibited the center from storing data compilations on U.S. citizens unless they were suspected of terrorist activity or were relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation, the new powers give the center the ability to not only collect and store vast databases of information but also to trawl through and analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior in order to uncover activity that could launch an investigation.

The changes granted by Holder would also allow databases containing information about U.S. citizens to be shared with foreign governments for their own analysis.

The Obama administration’s new rules come after previous surveillance proposals were struck down during the Bush administration, following widespread condemnation and public outrage

Mary Ellen Callahan, then-chief privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security, was leading the charge to defend civil liberties but lost her battle and her job.