Bob Barr

The implications are astounding. Innocent Americans now may come under investigation for perfectly legal shopping trips that suddenly appear suspicious according to the NCTC’s secret, predictive pattern-matching. A chemistry teacher’s purchase of new lab supplies, along with a box of pseudoephedrine for his cold, could have the Drug Enforcement Administration knocking on his door. Why? Simply because his name showed up on some database supplied to or accessed by the NCTC. “Probable cause?” Not needed; Uncle Sam is fighting “terrorism.”

Additionally, the NCTC’s status as a clearinghouse for information, and its broad powers of copying data sets from any government database, make it a nucleus of information across the United States, at the beck and call of bureaucrats at all levels of government.

For example, if it is not already doing so, the NCTC could begin collecting databases of gun purchases in all 50 states on the theory such data will be cross-referenced with known or suspected terror targets who have traveled to the United States. On the surface, this may appear to be a sound investigative tool; but in so doing, the NCTC would have a record of all U.S. gun owners who legally purchased a firearm. Such data would be invaluable if the government were ever to mandate a “gun buy-back” program, as was implemented in Australia in 1996.

Emails obtained by the Journal’s FOIA requests revealed heated, behind-closed-doors debate among officials in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the White House. However, concerns raised by Homeland Security privacy watchdogs in a memo titled, "How Best to Express the Department's Privacy and Civil Liberties Concerns over Draft Guidelines Proposed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center," were redacted. In spite of those serious privacy concerns, the Attorney General quickly signed the updated guidelines, according to the Journal.

Who knows what data on innocent Americans engaged in lawful activities will be scooped up, processed, scrutinized, data-based and disseminated by the NCTC. And, who knows if a simple shopping trip will earn the prying ears of a warrantless wiretap. The one thing we do know is that the protections against unwarranted government snooping into our private lives – heretofore guaranteed in the Constitution – become irrelevant and inapplicable. And this is a terrible and dangerous precedent to allow.

Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.