Dept. of Homeland Security Releases 2012 Privacy Report

Kaye Beach

September 28, 2012

Th report touts small improvements but bigger problems are revealed.

EPIC the Electronic Privacy Information Center reports;

The Department of Homeland Security has released its 2012 Privacy
Office Annual Report to Congress. The report details the expansion of
the National Counterterrorism Center’s five-year retention policy for
records on US Persons, the agency’s social media-monitoring initiatives,
and privacy training for fusion centers personnel; however, it does not
discuss several new DHS-funded initiatives, including the Future
Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST, a “Minority-Report”-like
proposal for “pre-crime” detection. Also, according to the report the
Transportation Security Administration has still failed to adopt
privacy safeguards for airport body scanners.

Two DHS Privacy Office investigations led to the finding of agency non-
compliance. One of those investigations involved DHS’s use of social
media monitoring. EPIC filed a FOIA request on DHS’ social media
monitoring program in April 2011, then filed suit against DHS in
December 2011 in order to force the disclosure of documents related
to the monitoring program, which searched for both suspicious
“keywords” and dissent against government programs. Earlier in 2012,
Congress held an oversight hearing on the DHS social media monitoring
program, and cited the documents obtained by EPIC.

While the report acknowledges agency shortcomings, it also touts DHS
privacy and transparency training as well public engagement through
speaker series, a redesigned FOIA site, and quarterly privacy advocacy
meetings. Significantly, the report fails to address the lack of timely
notice-and-comment rulemakings, particularly the TSA’s lack of
rulemaking on body scanners, ordered by a court in 2011 in response to
a suit brought by EPIC.

The report discusses DHS’ increased use of Privacy Compliance Reviews
(PCRs), which cover programs including cybersecurity, information
sharing, and the use of social media. The DHS Privacy Office used these
reviews to fail eight of its own agency programs for their lack of
privacy compliance documentation. None of the eight programs are
identified in the report, nor are any details of their lack of privacy

The DHS Chief Privacy Office must present annual reports to Congress
and is also required by law to ensure that new agency programs do not
diminish privacy in the US.

DHS Privacy Office:  2012  Annual Report to Congress (Sept. 2012)

EPIC:  DHS Privacy Office

EPIC:  Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST)

EPIC:  Fusion Centers

EPIC:  EPIC v. DHS (Social Media Monitoring)

EPIC:  EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program)


Volume 19.18                                       September 28, 2012

Published by the
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Washington, D.C.

“Defend Privacy. Support EPIC.”

One response to “Dept. of Homeland Security Releases 2012 Privacy Report

  1. In The Name of Fighting Terrorism, Fusion Centers Bypass Fourth Amendment To Spy on Americans.

    Federal and State Fusion Centers—perhaps by design laid the groundwork for Government agencies to bypass U.S. Citizens’ Fourth Amendment Protections to invade the privacy of every American. Since 9/11 federal government has established across the nation approximately 77 Fusion Centers. The Fusion Centers were originally established to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. But have since taken a different path with encouragement of the federal government to pursue all crimes and hazards. Fusion Centers now pursue for analysis not just criminal and terrorist information, but any information that can be derived from police, public records and private sector data about Americans. Fusion Centers increasingly involve components of the U.S. Military in addition to other government entities to spy on U.S. Citizens. Fusion centers heavily rely on local and neighborhood informants often not reliable for information that is shared with Local, State, and Federal Police Agencies.

    More recently the Department of Homeland Security began sharing more classified Military information with local Fusion Centers, perhaps a mistake. Historically not all local police keep secrets—disclosing confidential police information to neighbors and friends; in cop bars, sometimes to anyone that will listen. Some Fusion Centers appear to operate more independently than others and take advantage of ambiguous lines of authority to manipulate differences in federal, state and local laws to maximize information collection. Increasingly more (private security corporations and their operatives) are working with law enforcement and Fusion Centers—exchanging information about Americans. Some private sector security corporations appear merged with police. Because Fusion Centers and law enforcement exchange information with select U.S. private sector companies: that has enabled fusion centers to escape accountability and public oversight. That happened in Germany during the 1930’s when Hitler’s SS and private Gestapo worked with German corporations, local and State Police to target often-lawful German Citizens and others for arrest, extortion and asset forfeiture. Before Hitler’s Gestapo was consolidated with the German Government in 1934 his Gestapo arrested Citizens and confiscated their private property with no legal authority. In 1934 the Gestapo was placed under SS leader Heinrich Himmler Chief of German Police. In 1939 all German Police agencies were put under the control of the “Reich Main Security Office” the equivalent of U.S. Homeland Security.

    While the press on occasion has discussed Fusion Centers invading privacy of Citizens, the media has missed Fusion Centers’ involvement in criminal and civil asset forfeitures. It was problematic law enforcement and quasi private government contractors would gain wider access to Fusion Center data to secure evidence to arrest Americans and civilly forfeit their homes, inheritances and businesses under Title 18USC, The USA Patriot Act and other laws to keep part of the assets. Considering there are more than 400 laws and violations many which corporations unknowingly break that can make their property/assets subject to Government Civil Asset Forfeiture, it is foreseeable merging private security corporations with government police operations like Nazi Germany could result in government and quasi private security corporations seizing ownership of several large corporations; blackmailing corporations to support the will of politicians’ or dictator should that be the case.

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