FBI Admits to Tracking/Tracing/Databasing Ordinary Tourists Forever (and a Day)
SoCal Martial Law Alerts
September 7, 2009
"If somebody is filming a power plant facility on the East Coast ... no big deal," said Michael Heimbach, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Counterterrorism Division. But if "the same individuals, or a car used by the individuals, shows up at the Hoover Dam. Now we’re saying, ‘Okay, what’s going on here?’"
Um. What's going on here?
I hate to break the news to you, Mr. Heimbach, but what you describe would be called a:
Wikipedia defines a road trip as: "A journey via automobile, sometimes unplanned or impromptu, or a journey involving sporting game(s) away from home, thus encompassing any journey by automobile, regardless of stops en route." And, according to the same article, road-tripping really took off in America during the 1950s when automobiles became the transportation mode of choice.
You could almost say:
It's an American Tradition
I know it's hard to believe, Mr. Heimbach, but oftentimes said road-trippers (gasp) take photographs and -- nowadays -- video recordings during their road trips.
Sounds innocuous enough -- ordinary tourists out enjoying their vacations and all -- but fortunately for us, the FBI's Threat Management Unit (TMU) has developed a computer database called eGuardian where local, state, tribal and federal authorities can track, trace and database all such ordinary tourist activity from now on, forever and in perpetuity.
Heimbach said that when "suspicious activities" and "threats" come in -- such as photographing and videotaping ordinary man-made structures and landmarks while on a road trip -- these are "put into the eGuardian system, and then it sits there, and then we have a mechanism to potentially connect the dot." That's right. Because that road trip you took this summer? "Today it may not link, but five years or ten years from now, it could link," said Heimbach knowingly (wink, wink).
Check out the diagram of how the FBI handles reports of ordinary tourist activity:
And here is a description of how it goes through the grinder:
Data is input at an initial level but reviewed at a Fusion Center or similar entity before being passed to eGuardian if the information appears to be linked to terrorism. The “Agency Data Input Zone” represents law enforcement contributors of suspicious activity reports with a potential nexus to terrorism. The Fusion Center Management Zone represents the vetting that must occur before these reports are shared with eGuardian participants. The eGuardian Exchange Zone is where this information sharing will actually occur, once a determination has been made that the report has a potential nexus to terrorism.
And so there you have it
If you and your family have a particular penchant for photographing, or videotaping various American architectural wonders such as dams and power plants while road-tripping, and the appropriate authority catches you? KA-BAM. You will be tracked/traced/databased and classified as a potential terrorist nigh unto forever and there's nothing you can do about it, because -- according to the Privacy Impact Assessment for the eGuardian Threat Tracking System -- "eGuardian considers all reports submitted to the system to be the property of the submitting agency ... " And: "Amendment of FBI records is a matter of discretion as the records are exempt from the Privacy Act amendment provisions."
But if you're worried that a system with virtually no accountability might be abused, then fear not. Heimbach inspires confidence as he describes the highly-refined process that will be used to collect data on ordinary tourist activity: "It could be very, as I refer to, low-hanging fruit, it could be a low level misdemeanor, or just a police officer’s gut feeling of some type of suspicious activity."
Ah, yes. You, my dear road-tripping American friends, are considered juicy, delectable, "low-hanging fruit" to be plucked and chucked into a database forever and ever at the merest tummy-rumble of the peace officers sworn to protect you.
God bless America.
Inside the FBI: Counterterrorism – I, 08/21/09
eGuardian Threat Tracking System: Privacy Impact Assessment for the
eGuardian Threat Tracking System