Conor Friedersdorf points, this morning, to a pretty scary exposition at The Intercept of the US government's "watch list" -- the black list any one of us could find our names on right now.
A feature of the Patriot Act (which, as most of us know, should have been repealed long since), the watch list, has "new guidelines" that "allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place 'entire categories' of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists."
Get that? You don't know if you're on it; they don't need evidence to put you on it; if you are on it, you have no way of getting off. Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux describe what they call a "convoluted system" and write:
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.” ...FirstLook
In other words, this isn't about the government admitting to the failures of the intelligence agencies that played a role in 9/11. Instead, an elaborate coverup during the Bush administration. Instead of improving our intelligence gathering, the government opted for tearing holes in the Constitution and create a data-gathering system that includes all of every American's personal data, data that can be mined from unlimited angles at any time.
It didn't end with the previous administration and a bygone session of Congress. President Obama has also permitted the abrogation of the Constitution. Friedersdorf writes:
The Obama administration should be condemned for its policy. There is no defense for its avowed belief that a system as opaque and unchallengeable as what it propagates and defends can protect the civil rights and civil liberties of those subject to it. The Congress should also be criticized for permitting two successive presidents to transgress against core American norms and values in this realm. The former Constitutional law lecturer in the Oval Office knows that this system transgresses against basic rule-of-law norms, but has evidently persuaded himself that normal safeguards aren't needed so long as he is in charge. Obama defenders should recalibrate their esteem for the president accordingly. ...Friedersdorf,The Atlantic