Hidden Microphones Exposed As Part Of FBI Surveillance Program In Bay Area

TN Note: The FBI knows full well that these actions are patently illegal and unconstitutional and yet this does not curtail their behavior in the slightest. Is it just that they think they are above the law or is there something more sinister behind it? The Total Awareness Society being created by the Director of National Intelligence, who overseas all intelligence operations in the U.S., is run by and for the benefit of the Technocrats who are seeking to established a scientifically engineered society, or Technocracy. 

Hidden microphones that are part of a clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the Bay Area has been exposed.

Imagine standing at a bus stop, talking to your friend and having your conversation recorded without you knowing. It happens all the time, and the FBI doesn’t even need a warrant to do it.

Federal agents are planting microphones to secretly record conversations.

Jeff Harp, a KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI special agent said, “They put microphones under rocks, they put microphones in trees, they plant microphones in equipment. I mean, there’s microphones that are planted in places that people don’t think about, because that’s the intent!”

FBI agents hid microphones inside light fixtures and at a bus stop outside the Oakland Courthouse without a warrant to record conversations, between March 2010 and January 2011.

Federal authorities are trying to prove real estate investors in San Mateo and Alameda counties are guilty of bid rigging and fraud and used these recordings as evidence.

Harp said, “An agent can’t just go out and grab a recording device and plant it somewhere without authorization from a supervisor or special agent in charge.”

The lawyer for one of the accused real estate investors who will ask the judge to throw out the recordings, told KPIX 5 News that, “Speaking in a public place does not mean that the individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy…private communication in a public place qualifies as a protected ‘oral communication’… and therefore may not be intercepted without judicial authorization.”

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Congress Pressures Spy Agencies To Reveal Extent Of U.S. Surveillance

TN Note:In January 2014, Congressmen called for the firing of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence because he lied and intentionally misled Congress on collection of data on American citizens. Clapper directly manages   all 16 federal intelligence agencies. 

Even though the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records has ended, calls and emails are still being swept up by U.S. surveillance work targeting foreigners. Congress is making a renewed push to find out how many.

Six Republicans and eight Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have asked the nation’s top intelligence official for the number of Americans’ emails and phone calls collected under programs authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The programs target foreigners, but domestic communications sometimes are vacuumed up as well. They were first revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, who leaked files from the National Security Agency.

“Surely the American public is entitled to some idea of how many of our communications are swept up by these programs,” the committee members wrote in their April 22 letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

They weren’t the first to request the information.

In the past five years, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico have asked repeatedly. Last October, a coalition of more than 30 civil liberties groups wrote Clapper seeking the information. Unsatisfied with the answer they received, they wrote him again in January.

Intelligence officials have tried to assuage concerns of Congress and others by saying that any domestic communications collected are “incidental” to the targeting of foreigners. They say Section 702 allows the government to target only non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. They say the law explicitly bars the government from targeting a foreigner to acquire the communications of an American or someone in the U.S. But they say intelligence agencies are authorized under Section 702 to query communications made with U.S. persons under certain cases with certain approvals.

Late last month, Clapper said intelligence agencies are looking into several options for providing an estimate and will do their best to come up with a number.

“This tool is a terrific producer of critical intelligence for this country and our allies,” Clapper said recently about continued need for Section 702 programs.

He did not say how soon an estimate could be released and cautioned that “any methodology we come up with will not be completely satisfactory to all parties.”

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FBI Ramps Up Biometrics Programs To Catalogue Information On Everyone In America

TN Note: Is there any conceivable reason that the FBI should be collecting data on all Americans? Hardly. Did anyone ask citizens if they approved of such a program? No way! Technocrats see no reason to consult the targets of their micromanagement techniques, and this is especially true with the FBI. 

In the last few years, FBI has been dramatically expanding its biometrics programs, whether by adding face recognition to its vast Next Generation Identification (NGI) database or pushing out mobile biometrics capabilities for “time-critical situations” through its Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC). But two new developments—both introduced with next to no media attention—will impact far more every-day Americans than anything the FBI has done on biometrics in the past.

FBI Combines Civil and Criminal Fingerprints into One Fully Searchable Database

Being a job seeker isn’t a crime. But the FBI has made a big change in how it deals with fingerprints that might make it seem that way. For the first time, fingerprints and biographical information sent to the FBI for a background check will be stored and searched right along with fingerprints taken for criminal purposes.

The change, which the FBI revealed quietly in a February 2015 Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), means that if you ever have your fingerprints taken for licensing or for a background check, they will most likely end up living indefinitely in the FBI’s NGI database. They’ll be searched thousands of times a day by law enforcement agencies across the country—even if your prints didn’t match any criminal records when they were first submitted to the system.

This is the first time the FBI has allowed routine criminal searches of its civil fingerprint data. Although employers and certifying agencies have submitted prints to the FBI for decades, the FBI says it rarely retained these non-criminal prints. And even when it did retain prints in the past, they “were not readily accessible or searchable.” Now, not only will these prints—and the biographical data included with them—be available to any law enforcement agent who wants to look for them, they will be searched as a matter of course along with all prints collected for a clearly criminal purpose (like upon arrest or at time of booking).

This seems part of an ever-growing movement toward cataloguing information on everyone in America—and a movement that won’t end with fingerprints. With the launch of the face recognition component of NGI, employers and agencies will be able to submit a photograph along with prints as part of the standard background check. As we’ve noted before, one of FBI’s stated goals for NGI is to be able to track people as they move from one location to another. Having a robust database of face photos, built out using non-criminal records, will only make that goal even easier to achieve.

This change will impact a broad swath of Americans. It’s not just prospective police officers or childcare workers who have to submit to fingerprint background checks. In Texas, for example, you’ll need to give the government your prints if you want to be an engineer, doctor, realtor, stockbroker, attorney, or even an architect. The California Department of Justice says it submits 1.2 million sets of civil prints to the FBI annually. And, since 1953, all jobs with the federal government have required a fingerprint check—not just for jobs requiring a security clearance, but even for part-time food service workers, student interns, designers, customer service representatives, and maintenance workers.

The FBI seems to think we should all be OK with this because it has (ostensibly) given people notice and because the program is limited to only those people who are required by federal or state rules to provide prints. But in many parts of the country, this could amount to a very large percentage of workers (including each and every attorney at EFF)—and for many people, especially the poor and underemployed, opting out of this program by choosing a different line of work is truly a not a choice at all.

This is not OK. The government should not collect information on Americans for a non-criminal purpose and then use that same information for criminal purposes—in effect submitting the data of Americans with no ties to the criminal justice system to thousands of criminal searches every day. This violates our democratic ideals and our societal belief that we should not treat people as criminals until they are proven guilty.

It also subjects innocent Americans to the very real risk that they will be falsely linked to a crime. In 2004, the FBI mistakenly linked American attorney Brandon Mayfield to a bombing in Madrid based solely on forensic fingerprint evidence. The FBI seized his property, and he was imprisoned for two weeks before agents finally recognized their error and apologized. Researchers have postulated large face recognition databases could also result in false matches. This means that many people will be presented as suspects for crimes they didn’t commit.

Unfortunately, individuals don’t have much recourse. The only way you can get your prints out of the FBI’s database and stop this repeated invasion of privacy is either with a court order or if the agency that requires your prints to be collected also requests for them to be removed. There appears to be no way for an individual to ask to have their prints removed on their own.

We are disappointed that the FBI chose to go down this path. It could just as easily have designed its database to keep non-criminal data separate from criminal data. Or even better, the FBI could go back to its old practices and not keep the data at all.

FBI Plans to Populate its Massive Face Recognition Database with Photographs Taken in the Field

As Privacy SOS reported earlier this month, the FBI is looking for new ways to collect biometrics out in the field—and not just fingerprints, but face recognition-ready photographs as well.

The FBI recently issued a request for quotations (RFQ) to build out its mobile biometrics capabilities. Specifically, it’s looking for software that can be used on small Android-based mobile devices like Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets to collect fingerprints and face images from anyone officers stop on the street.

If the plan goes through, it will be the first time the FBI will be able to collect fingerprints and face images out in the field and search them against its Next Generation Identification (NGI) database. According to the RFQ, FBI’s current mobile collection tools are “not optimized for mobile operations” because they are large and are limited in scope to determining if a person has “possible terrorist links (in the U.S. or abroad) or is likely to pose a threat to the U.S.”

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Edward Snowden: ‘Governments Can Reduce Our Dignity To Something Like Tagged Animals’

TN Note: This is an important essay by the NSA whistleblower, Ed Snowden. His biopic, Citizen Four, is a must view documentary of his saga in releasing the most damning details of illegal surveillance in the history of the world. Technocracy demands not just data, but ALL data, everywhere. Snowden is an eye-witness to this. 

I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone like you.” Those were the first words Daniel Ellsberg spoke to me when we met last year. Dan and I felt an immediate kinship; we both knew what it meant to risk so much — and to be irrevocably changed — by revealing secret truths.

One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency, who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint. They learn to live not just with untruths but with unnecessary untruths, dangerous untruths, corrosive untruths. It is a double tragedy: What begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice.

But unlike Dan Ellsberg, I didn’t have to wait 40 years to witness other citizens breaking that silence with documents. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971; Chelsea Manning provided the Iraq and Afghan War logs and the Cablegate materials to WikiLeaks in 2010. I came forward in 2013. Now here we are in 2016, and another person of courage and conscience has made available the set of extraordinary documents that are published in The Assassination Complex, the new book out today by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept. (The documents were originally published last October 15 in The Drone Papers.)

We are witnessing a compression of the working period in which bad policy shelters in the shadows, the time frame in which unconstitutional activities can continue before they are exposed by acts of conscience. And this temporal compression has a significance beyond the immediate headlines; it permits the people of this country to learn about critical government actions, not as part of the historical record but in a way that allows direct action through voting — in other words, in a way that empowers an informed citizenry to defend the democracy that “state secrets” are nominally intended to support. When I see individuals who are able to bring information forward, it gives me hope that we won’t always be required to curtail the illegal activities of our government as if it were a constant task, to uproot official lawbreaking as routinely as we mow the grass. (Interestingly enough, that is how some have begun to describe remote killing operations, as “cutting the grass.”)

A single act of whistleblowing doesn’t change the reality that there are significant portions of the government that operate below the waterline, beneath the visibility of the public. Those secret activities will continue, despite reforms. But those who perform these actions now have to live with the fear that if they engage in activities contrary to the spirit of society — if even a single citizen is catalyzed to halt the machinery of that injustice — they might still be held to account. The thread by which good governance hangs is this equality before the law, for the only fear of the man who turns the gears is that he may find himself upon them.

Hope lies beyond, when we move from extraordinary acts of revelation to a collective culture of accountability within the intelligence community. Here we will have taken a meaningful step toward solving a problem that has existed for as long as our government.

Not all leaks are alike, nor are their makers. Gen. David Petraeus, for instance, provided his illicit lover and favorable biographer information so secret it defied classification, including the names of covert operatives and the president’s private thoughts on matters of strategic concern. Petraeus was not charged with a felony, as the Justice Department had initially recommended, but was instead permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Had an enlisted soldier of modest rank pulled out a stack of highly classified notebooks and handed them to his girlfriend to secure so much as a smile, he’d be looking at many decades in prison, not a pile of character references from a Who’s Who of the Deep State.
There are authorized leaks and also permitted disclosures. It is rare for senior administration officials to explicitly ask a subordinate to leak a CIA officer’s name to retaliate against her husband, as appears to have been the case with Valerie Plame. It is equally rare for a month to go by in which some senior official does not disclose some protected information that is beneficial to the political efforts of the parties but clearly “damaging to national security” under the definitions of our law.

This dynamic can be seen quite clearly in the al Qaeda “conference call of doom” story, in which intelligence officials, likely seeking to inflate the threat of terrorism and deflect criticism of mass surveillance, revealed to a neoconservative website extraordinarily detailed accounts of specific communications they had intercepted, including locations of the participating parties and the precise contents of the discussions. If the officials’ claims were to be believed, they irrevocably burned an extraordinary means of learning the precise plans and intentions of terrorist leadership for the sake of a short-lived political advantage in a news cycle. Not a single person seems to have been so much as disciplined as a result of the story that cost us the ability to listen to the alleged al Qaeda hotline.

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‘Spying Billboards’ Under Fire For Tapping Into People’s Cellphones

TN Note: Technocrats in business are no different than Technocrats in government, seeking an endless stream of data wherever there is data to collect. You would think that ClearChannel would apply business ethics to their behavior, but they do not. If technology can provide them an edge over any competitor, they will act first and take heat later. This is patently amoral, but it is what we can expect in the coming Scientific Dictatorship… unless we can stop them first.

 A U.S. senator is calling for a federal investigation into an outdoor advertising company’s latest effort to target billboard ads to specific consumers.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer has dubbed Clear Channel Outdoor Americas’ so-called RADAR program “spying billboards,” warning the service may violate privacy rights by tracking people’s cell phone data via the ad space.

“A person’s cellphone should not become a James Bond-like personal tracking device for a corporation to gather information about consumers without their consent,” Schumer, a Democrat, said in a statement ahead of a planned news conference Sunday in Times Square, where the company operates billboards.

But the company, which operates more than 675,000 billboards throughout the world, argues that characterization of its program is inaccurate, insisting it only uses anonymous data collected by other companies.

In a statement, company spokesman Jason King said the RADAR program is based on a years-old advertising technique that “uses only aggregated and anonymized information” from other companies that certify they’re following consumer protection standards.

King also provided The Associated Press a copy of a letter it sent earlier this year to another lawmaker who has similarly raised concerns about the ad service and consumer protections.

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Government Already Asserting Control Over Driverless Cars

TN Note: The big issue here is that since driverless cars are controlled via GPS, every inch that the car travels will be recorded and used for taxation and surveillance. This will set the GEOINT (Geospatial Intelligence) crowd on fire as they seek to tabulate and correlate movements of people en-mass. Technocrats will be in their heyday.

A Google self-driving SUV is tested in Austin, Texas, where city officials have welcomed autonomous vehicles.

Cars driven entirely by computers are popping up all over Kirkland, Washington’s suburban hills, negotiating residential roads and powering through Pacific Northwest rains, all without regulation from the city or state.

In the absence of federal guidelines on testing and developing the vehicles, some cities, excited about their potential to improve traffic safety and increase mobility, are welcoming the cars, allowing Google and other companies to get their self-driving cars off controlled test tracks and onto real roads with authentic driving conditions.

So far, few states have moved to regulate the vehicles. But as the technology in self-driving cars advances, some are debating whether emergency steering wheels and brakes should be required when the vehicles become available to the public, and some wonder whether the cars are safe enough to be piloted even without a human on board.

“Cities and communities can wait for disruptive technologies to wash over them and change the world or they can jump in and help direct where that change occurs,” said Robert Spillar, who directs the Transportation Department in Austin, Texas, where Google is also testing the cars.

Local governments will have to balance autonomous car programs with existing city infrastructure, said Susan Shaheen, a research director at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. That means deciding where the cars can drive, park and unload passengers as well as evaluating their potential impact on congestion and the environment.

“There’s often a tension,” she said. “How do you guard or protect public safety, the interests of the environment? What is the role of government?”

This year legislation to regulate autonomous vehicles was introduced in at least 14 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states and the District of Columbia have already addressed how and when self-driving cars can be tested, or, in some cases, how they will be treated when they are commercially available.

Remaining states are silent on autonomous vehicles, leaving the door open for car and technology companies to take test runs on public streets with little regulation.

The federal Transportation Department has pledged to develop model state guidelines by midyear and President Barack Obama’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget calls for nearly $4 billion for real-world autonomous vehicle pilot projects.

Approving Google’s request to test the autonomous cars — which rely on computers instead of human drivers and are seen as a way to help people get around and improve traffic safety — on city streets was a natural move for Kirkland, according to its city manager, Kurt Triplett. The city is already home to a Google campus and has invested in pedestrian safety and mobility for residents who cannot drive.

“We feel like the technology is potentially transformative,” Triplett said. “If we can help facilitate its development, we wanted to be a part of that.”

After discussions about the safety of the cars with Google officials, and the company’s commitment to assume liability for them, Kirkland officials concluded that the risk posed by allowing them on city streets was low, though a test car in California did cause an accident in February when it veered into the path of a public bus.

Google test cars have been involved in 17 minor crashes during their seven years on public roads, though the company says the majority of those incidents were a result of “distracted or inattentive driving” by human drivers.

Google has been testing on public roads in California for more than seven years and took the vehicles to Austin last year. It says the real-world conditions help improve the cars. The company has also pushed for federal guidance and uniform rules across the country, arguing that a patchwork of state laws will make it impossible to operate self-driving cars across state lines.

An array of state laws would create an “unworkable situation” that would “hinder safety innovation, interstate commerce, national competitiveness, and the eventual deployment of autonomous vehicles,” Google’s self-driving car director, Chris Urmson, told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last month. 

Go Slow 

With as many as 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles expected to be sold around the world by 2035, some states aren’t waiting for federal guidance and are moving to regulate driverless cars on their own.

Nevada became the first state to authorize and regulate autonomous cars, in 2011, hoping to become a model for other states and an attractive place for car and tech companies. The state requires driverless car companies to explain and demonstrate how their technology works before they are awarded a restricted license detailing how, when and where cars can be tested on state roads.

“This is how you build a safe program for testing and deployment, regardless of what the feds do or don’t do,” said Jude Hurin with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Four years into that program, DMV officials are looking to relax those regulations. Their proposal would require only one person (not two) to be in a car while it is being tested and would allow people who may not qualify for a regular driver’s license, because they have a physical disability or other impairment, to test the vehicles with assistance.

“The DMV fully recognizes that we’re not in the technology business and so we need to just take a step back,” said April Sanborn, a DMV manager. But, she said, some regulations are necessary to ensure the cars operate safely and under existing state laws.

In Florida, lawmakers opened the door to autonomous vehicles eventually being sold to consumers.

And in Utah, where until recently there had been no law regulating driverless cars, one lawmaker says it’s time for that state to get in the game. State Rep. Robert Spendlove, a Republican, wants state agencies to develop standards for testing autonomous vehicles that can be used as a model for other states.

“This isn’t going to be a one- or two-year process,” Spendlove said. “This is going to be over the next 10 to 15 years that we’ll be developing this technology.”

But not all states are relaxing their regulations. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has suggested that all commercial self-driving cars would have to have a licensed driver in the car and need a steering wheel and pedals to operate on state roads, a move autonomous car companies say would effectively shut down access for people who cannot already drive on their own.

Deciding Not to Regulate

Because most states lack rules on testing autonomous cars, deciding whether to allow the vehicles on public streets can be left to local governments.

Like leaders in Kirkland, officials in Austin say that with Google taking on liability for the cars, there was no reason not to bring them into town, and they could mean new access to transportation for seniors, the disabled and others who don’t have it now.

But, looking to the future, they don’t know how they might regulate the cars once they become available for public use.

Spillar, the city’s transportation chief, speculates that the city might eventually have to regulate the cars if they’re used by ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

And revenue from parking fees may decline in the future as driverless cars travel around while their owners are home, at work or running errands on foot, but the city can work on that down the road, he said.

“It’s easy to envision a day when everybody has an automatic car,” Spillar said. “It’s called ‘The Jetsons.’ ”

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Kuwait To Begin DNA Testing And Tagging All Tourists

TN Note: Officials make a point to state that DNA will not be used to determine genealogy, which means that is exactly what they will do, at least at some point. With the Arab intense hatred of Jews, it would be an easy test to quickly determine nationality of origin. Furthermore, to whom would they sell the DNA data? And, how long before other countries adopt and implement the same technology? Technocracy depends upon tracking of all individuals and amassing as much personal data as possible.

All visitors and tourists to Kuwait will now have to submit to a DNA test and be DNA tagged before they’re allowed to enter the Persian Gulf state.

In a world first, Kuwait wants to DNA “tag” everybody in, as well as entering the country with the new DNA legislation that will become law this year.

The Kuwait government says the forced DNA testing won’t affect people’s personal freedom and privacy but will be done to keep track of people and to help if they commit crimes.

Tourists and visitors to Kuwait will get their DNA taken through specimens of saliva or a few drops of blood done at a special DNA testing facility at the airport.

The DNA collection will be done at a special testing centre at Kuwait International Airport and there will be “consequences of rejecting its procedures” for visitors who refuse the mandatory test.

Citizens will be DNA tested by using mobile testing centres that will move through the state and residents will have their DNA captured when they apply for the issuing or renewing of residency visas during medical examinations.

According to The Kuwait Times, the DNA testing law is “aimed at creating an integrated security database”. The law – the first of its kind in the world – and the DNA tagging will only be used for “criminal security purposes” according to Kuwait officials.

“Kuwait will have a database including DBA fingerprints of all citizens, residents and visitors. This law is the first of its kind in the world and Kuwait is the first country worldwide to apply the system,” notes the publication.

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Feds Building Massive Online Database of Genomic Data on American Citizens

TN Note: Again, there is no such thing as enough data for Technocracy. Genomic data is the ultimate invasion of privacy but that is exactly the point to Technocrats. Collection points include hospitals, doctors, blood-draw facilities and law enforcement. Genomic data is now routinely taken from newborns without the parents knowledge or consent. 

A new online portal would let scientists access vast amounts of genomic data from patients involved in heart, lung, blood and sleep research studies.

The hub, called GenPort, is supposed to help researchers look into the results of several studies at once, tracking individuals in different trials who might share the same characteristics, known as “synthetic cohorts.”

The Health and Human Services Department is currently looking for small businesses who can help build that hub, so even researchers without informatics or genomics training can make “practical use” of data from cohort studies other scientists have already conducted.

GenPort’s software and tools will be “open source, transportable, and freely shared,” according to the HHS posting.

The cloud-based resource also aims to let researchers visualize and analyze that data.

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DNA

Federal Judge Alarmed By Surveillance Excesses At FBI and NSA

TN Note: Not just any judge, but Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Thomas Hogan. There is no end to collection of data by Technocrats in pursuit of establishing a Technocracy. There is also no stopping them by legal or legislative means.

In a just-released court opinion, a federal court judge overseeing government surveillance programs said he was “extremely concerned” about a series of incidents in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency deviated from court-approved limits on their snooping activities.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Thomas Hogan sharply criticized the two agencies over the episodes, referred to by intelligence gatherers as “compliance incidents.” He also raised concerns that the government had taken years to bring the NSA-related issues to the court’s attention and he said that delay might have run afoul of the government’s duty of candor to the court.

“The court was extremely concerned about NSA’s failure to comply with its minimization procedures—and potentially” a provision in federal law, Hogan wrote. The NSA violations appeared to involve preserving surveillance data in its systems beyond the two or five years after which it was supposed to be deleted.

“Perhaps more disappointing than the NSA’s failure to purge this information for more than four years, was the Government’s failure to convey to the Court explicitly during that time that the NSA was continuing to retain this information,” the judge wrote in the Nov. 6, 2015, opinion made public Tuesday.

In a statement, the Office of Director of National Intelligence said officials did not mean to be misleading. “The Government has informed the Court that there was no intent to leave the FISC with a misimpression or misunderstanding, and it has acknowledged that its prior representations could have been clearer,” the statement posted on ODNI’s Tumblr site said.

The NSA said in some cases it needed the data to prevent future incidents where data was accidentally collected without legal authority, like when a surveillance target enters the U.S. (At that point, officials are supposed to seek a more specific court order to continue the surveillance.) However, that wasn’t the case with all of the old data NSA was hanging onto.

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Government To Sift Social Media Posts For Background Checks

TN Note: The government is getting more sophisticated in analyzing public data such as social media. The original intent of social media simple enough but the unintended consequence now includes massive data mining. If it’s there, it will be examined. This massive store of global data is a Technocrat’s playground.

The Office of Personnel Management is preparing for a pilot program to automatically track public social media postings of people applying for security clearances.

OPM is conducting market research to find companies that can perform automated social media tracking and other types of Web crawling as part of the background investigation process, according to an April 8 request for information posted online. Responses from interested companies are due by April 15.

OPM is looking for companies that can automatically browse “publicly available electronic information,” which includes information posted to news and media sites; Facebook, Twitter and other social media postings; blog postings; online court records, updates to photo and video-sharing sites; and information gleaned from online e-commerce sites, such as Amazon and eBay.

OPM is interested in companies that have fully automated capabilities — “with no human intervention,” according to the RFI — with the ability to search for information “in the parts of the World Wide Web whose contents are not indexed by standard search engines.”

Companies should also have a “robust identity matching algorithm” that won’t get tricked by similar names and return irrelevant results.

The pilot project tests the feasibility of obtaining social media tracking from commercial vendors and will be a joint effort between OPM, which is responsible for performing most federal employee background checks, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to an OPM spokesman.

Testing of the new tech will be conducted on a population of 400 investigations, the spokesman said, although there’s still no word on when the pilot project is set to get underway.

The new solicitation is the latest in a series of government initiatives to explore the use of social media in the background investigation process. Some of these efforts have been stymied by missed deadlines and unclear policy.

Pentagon and intelligence officials are leading an effort to establish “continuous evaluation” of clearance-holders using automated data checks to replace periodic reinvestigations that currently occur only once every five or 10 years.

Intelligence officials had planned to have a continuous evaluation capability in place for the most sensitive clearance holders by December 2014 but missed the deadline, according to progress updates posted on Performance.gov. Officials now plan to roll out the new program in phases, with at least 5 percent of top-secret clearance holders being continuously evaluated by March 2017. As of December, about 225,000 personnel undergo the automatic checks.

A public-records continuous evaluation project is also currently underway at the State Department, according to the Performance.gov update.

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