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DHS Creating Database of Secret Watchlists 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the veracity-is-optional dept.
schwit1 writes "Homeland Security plans to operate a massive new database of names, photos, birthdays and biometrics called Watchlist Service, duplicated from the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database, which has proven not to be accurate many times in the past. DHS wants to exempt the Watchlist Service from Privacy Act provisions, meaning you will never know if you are wrongfully listed. Privacy groups worried about inaccurate info and mission creep have filed a protest, arguing the Privacy Act says DHS must notify subject of government surveillance. DHS has admitted that it 'does not control the accuracy of the information in system of records' and that 'individuals do not have an opportunity to decline to provide information.' Additionally, the DHS Watchlist Service attempts to circumvent privacy protections established by the Privacy Act. Who's watching the watchers?"
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DHS Creating Database of Secret Watchlists

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  • on the plus side (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @06:41PM (#37038666)

    We'll probably eventually find out who's on it when all our personal info ends up leaked on a torrent somewhere.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      We'll probably eventually find out who's on it when all our personal info ends up leaked on a torrent somewhere.

      IF you'll be able to access it.

      From direct experience, I can tell that the moment institutions concerned with "the state security" like STASI [wikipedia.org], KGB [wikipedia.org], Securitate [wikipedia.org] start dealing in secret and unchecked by the civil society, funny things happen: even listening to radio stations like"Voice of America" or BBC used to land you in prison.

      Remember the PROTECT-IP? How long 'til will be extended beyond "Intellectual Property" and possibly merged with the PATRIOT act? How long until circumventing it will be considered

      • by RockDoctor (15477)
        How did you manage to get into the "bad books" of the STASI, the KGB and the Securitate all at the same time? By the time you've come to the attention of any one of them, your chances of travelling abroad were pretty limited, and with two of them paying attention you, you're even less likely to be venturing out of your home town.
        • by c0lo (1497653)
          (from what I wrote, just how did you get that one has to be listed on all 3 of them?)
          Isn't just one enough to know that the same would have happened if one would be listed in the bad books of any other secret police?
          • by RockDoctor (15477)
            You state that you had direct experience of ... and then gave a list of 3 secret police organisations.

            So what you're saying now is that you have got direct (personal) experience of one political police force (I don't think you could call the police organisations "secret", even if many of their operatives are secret) and make the (not unreasonable) assumption that the others behave similarly.

            What you originally wrote sounded like a list of the political police forces that you'd fallen foul of. An incredibl

            • by c0lo (1497653)

              You state that you had direct experience of ... and then gave a list of 3 secret police organisations.

              ...

              What you originally wrote sounded like a list of the political police forces that you'd fallen foul of. An incredible list.

              Well, not intentionally. A word may make the difference

              institutions concerned with "the state security" like STASI, KGB, Securitate

              Other than that, you are right.

        • He was probably watched by one and since they all share info so he ended up getting flagged by all since East Germany, and Romania were just puppets of the USSR, much like the UK is with the US.
  • I'm creating a watchlist of databases of watchlists!
    Take That DHS!

    • "I would like to subscribe to your list of database watchlists!"

      And so goeth the Internets, communication is SO much faster than 1975.

  • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @06:42PM (#37038682) Journal

    DHS has failed to make the country safer; if anything it made it easier for government to abuse the citizens.

    • DHS has failed to make the country safer; if anything it made it easier for government to abuse the citizens.

      It makes it easier for government to abuse citizens. It makes it slightly harder for terrorists and drug-runners to do their stuff.

      When Congress was debating the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the House of Representatives voted to specifically exclude from its protection atheists and communists. So it was okay to discriminate against atheists or communists, or at least that's what they wanted. The Senate took out at least the atheist part.

      I suppose my point is just that we've never been Utopia.

      • The people who complain that things were better in the past are the ones who don't remember the past very well.

        • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @07:21PM (#37038944)

          Until September 11, 2001, cooperating with a hijacking generally resulted in everyone on a plane surviving and being released in hours or a day. It was a moderate inconvenience. Also, generally terrorist attacks, be they bombings like in Oklahoma City, the original World Trade Center basement parking garage attacks, church bombings, or the killing of doctors resulted in small scale hurt that didn't cascade us into financial ruin.

          If anything, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are so remote in a given year that things really haven't changed. Mundane reasons for death, like car accidents, medical problems, even run-of-the-mill personal homicide massively dwarf terrorism. Additionally, anyone who attempts to hijack a plane is as good as dead, as the passengers will kill them if they can't apprehend them. That pretty much just leaves bombers like Richard Reid or the underwear bomber. Work on ways to detect the components of explosives like these people tried to use that detect in non-invasive ways, and stop confiscating nail clippers. Anyone who could take over a plane with a set of nail clippers can probably take over a plane without the nail clippers.

          • by mestar (121800)

            "If anything, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are so remote in a given year that things really haven't changed"

            tell that to the 250000 people that work in the DHS.

          • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @08:09PM (#37039338)

            run-of-the-mill personal homicide massively dwarf terrorism

            Oh god! Now there are MURDEROUS MIDGET TERRORISTS!!! We'll never be able to stop them! All our scanners are for people of normal heights!

          • If anything, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are so remote in a given year that things really haven't changed. Mundane reasons for death, like car accidents, medical problems, even run-of-the-mill personal homicide massively dwarf terrorism.

            DHS and post 9/11 is what you get when you have people who are legends in their own minds overestimate their own importance. No matter what you think...you are not unique nor special and are replaceable. By not believing this...you have all ready deluded yourself...no matter what your mother lied to you about.

        • by Jawnn (445279)
          Mod parent up, all the way. It is an understatement, to be sure, but it is all too true. For those who have studied history, the changes that our society has seen since 2001 are cause for great sadness, fear even. The terrorists are winning - our society is in steep decline. And no, I am not talking about credit ratings and economic conditions, though those suck too. I am talking about the wholesale abrogation of principles once held so dear and widely regarded as the key to the social advancements enjoyed
          • by mhajicek (1582795)
            You mean the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Now we have cowards giving up freedom for a false sense of security.
      • Note that this also includes TSA's Secure Flight [tsa.gov] database, you know, the one where you have to notify the government 72 hours in advance of any planned domestic travel. So this will also have all your comings-and-goings in it as well.
      • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @07:10PM (#37038882)

        They could have named it the Ministry of Love...

        At this point, Department of War would probably be more accurate than Department of Defense. We haven't been overwhelmingly defensive in about a decade now.

        If Homeland Security wanted to really do it right, they should actually screen all incoming cargo and use tariffs on that incoming cargo to pay for cost of the screening. That in turn would make the goods coming in more expensive, which might make domestic options more profitable for consumers, which might also help us retain our manufacturing base.

        • Been there, done exactly that [wikipedia.org] (Smoot-Hawley), at approximately the same point in the previous Great Depression.
          • Totally different. Parent suggested raising tariffs for the purpose of covering the costs incurred in scanning them - likely a very small increase. The other results he indicated as possible side-effects. Smoot-Hawley raised tariffs for the express purpose of shutting out foreign imports, and raised them sky-high. Even then, the actual negative effects weren't caused by the high tariffs, but by the inevitable international response to them.

        • You know, for how much people on Slashdot want to proclaim that they're so vastly more intelligent, it's shocking how few people on here have ever studied Economics. Yes, goods coming in would be more expensive due to tariffs - which means that we'd have fewer goods coming in, which means less selection as well as higher prices due to decreased competition (meaning that you'll be able to buy less on top of having fewer items to pick from). It's NOT complicated - compare the selection at stores and price a

          • by TWX (665546)

            I don't want to revert society to a more primitive time, but I do want to combat artificially set exchange rates with our biggest trading partner in China, and I am legitimately worried that the extreme lack of oversight at our ports is a big danger. A shipping container is massive, and it would be possible to construct an incredibly powerful device, equip a container with GPS, send the container with the device on a route that runs through an area like the refinery area through Boston, and set the thing o

            • It doesn't even have to be a nuclear device in a shipping container. Take a 40' container [wikipedia.org] and pack it full of high explosives or make it into a fuel air bomb (for even more effective use of your given volume and cargo capacity) and you can easily have an explosive yield over 50,000 pounds.
        • by wrook (134116)

          We haven't been overwhelmingly defensive in about a decade now.

          I hate to break it to you, but the US hasn't been overly defensive for a lot longer than a decade. Korea, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Herzegovina. At least Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of a larger effort, so I suppose we can give a few brownie points. Of course these are only direct military interventions from 1950 to 2000 and don't include the dozens of countries where the US has funded uprisings, overthow of the government, etc, etc. H

        • by mhajicek (1582795)
          A decade? Really, I think WWII was the last time the US fought defensively. 9/11 was not a military action, and the retaliation was neither defensive nor made against the perpetrators, but rather was an excuse for another offensive action against targets which had already been selected before the Towers were hit. In the Cold War it could have been named the Department of Intimidation, now it would be the Department of Foreign Occupation.
      • by Lanteran (1883836)

        Department of american freedoms? Sounds more 1984ish to me.

      • by sconeu (64226)

        It's not a 1984-ish name. It's worse.

        KGB stood for "Ministry for State Security".

        We don't have "Ministries", we have "Departments". Given the name parallels, I'm truly shocked that Congress actually named it that.

    • The cynic in me asks, "What did you think it was created for?"

      Terrorism was just an excuse, same as Communism was the excuse back in the '50s.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      DHS has failed to make the country safer; if anything it made it easier for government to abuse the citizens.

      This is thoughtcrime! How dare you object to MiniLuv!?... Errr, or was it KGB? Maybe STASI or Securitate? No? Gestapo then?

      What are you saying, is still just the Department of Homeland Security? Not for long, my friend, not for long - we've always been at war with Eastasia - the PROTECT-IP makes sure we are always right (because everything wrong does not exist) and the PATRIOT act is essential for maintaining the peace.

    • by h00manist (800926)

      DHS has failed to make the country safer; if anything it made it easier for government to abuse the citizens.

      They do what there were supposed to do, and you still *can* leave the country very easily. So far.

    • by lexsird (1208192)

      Get real! Do you know how hard it is to get rid of a government entity like this? It's not going to happen. I agree it's complete BS, I call it "Fatherland Security". Civil rights? Are you kidding me? Abuse citizens? You don't say?!

      The American mentality has been captured. It's been brainwashed, confused, worn out and it just wants to finish it's day of slave labor, curl up with a bong and forget life until the weekend. It's not a nation of free thinkers, it's a nation of drones, lemmings who need guided. T

      • Hey I don't deserve this but I am stuck with it. I have voted in every election since I was old enough to including primaries, unfortunately every candidate I have voted for has lost. I write all of my elected officials regularly (both e-mail and regular post) show up at their town hall meetings, and go down to their local offices. Unfortunately most of the time I am doing well if they pay lip service to what I have to say about the only elected official that I have had any luck with is my state senator in
    • if anything it made it easier for government to abuse the citizens.

      From the statist perspective this does make the country safer.

  • At least the DHS is finally doing something remotely related to terrorism, instead of playing enforcer for the RIAA. The downside to this is that they're doing something related to terrorism again.
  • by TimeOut42 (314783) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @06:51PM (#37038746) Homepage

    While I don't like the Terrorist Screening Database operated by the FBI, this story is off the mark by making it sound like DHS is setting up a new list; which they are not. They are looking to improving how they get the information from the TSD. Read the abstract here:

    http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_dhs_wls.pdf [dhs.gov]

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      While I don't like the Terrorist Screening Database operated by the FBI, this story is off the mark by making it sound like DHS is setting up a new list; which they are not. They are looking to improving how they get the information from the TSD. Read the abstract here:

      http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_dhs_wls.pdf [dhs.gov]

      Thanks for the link, but I think it is you that are way off the mark: the uttermost important thing to the matter is not how accurate the information is, but the fact that nobody from the civil society will know if they are or are not included in that database, much less how accurate the information is.

      Not very different from the files gathered and stored by every secret police (or "State Security" organisation, like STASI and KGB) used to. And I can guarantee you: the STASI/Securitate/KGB/Gestapo files wer

      • by Evtim (1022085) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @03:20AM (#37041416)

        Hi there! I see you are taking an active interest in this thread and as a fellow former citizen of totalitarian state let me add this:

        Do you remember the "fun" we had when those files were opened after 1989? When it turned out that people have been sent to camps because of a single "whistle-blower" ratting to the police? When we discovered that friends, colleagues, neighbors and even relatives were sending "annonimus" reports to the Secret Service? Wasn't that great!! Neighbor wants to fuck your wife - write a report, get you sent to Gulag, profit!! Colleague is too smart and you feel you deserve that promotion - write a report get him fired or locked away, profit!! You just hate the guy for whatever - write report, get him locked, profit!

        Before the Social Media era, they collected data through opening regular mail, wiretapping the telephones but most importantly spying on people and instigating regular Joes to spy on other regular Joes. Today, I expect the same level of human nastiness - I expect that a secret database will encourage people to rat on others. I fully expect that westerns would not show greater spirit than we did and will gladly use the opportunity to remove inconvenient people. Not to mention just plain mistakes a-la Buttle - Tuttle (sp?)

        My fellow Americans, for your own sake, do not go there!!

        • by c0lo (1497653) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @03:57AM (#37041548)

          Do you remember the "fun" we had when those files were opened after 1989?

          Yes, I do and I confirm this is how it goes. I can't however stress enough that, as innacurate as they were, they were just accurate enough for their purpose: no matter what, the purpose ends in not being the security of the citizens, but the "security" of a totally screwed up and nightmarish status-quo!

          My fellow Americans, for your own sake, do not go there!!

          By my feeling the correct expression should be: stop going there (before it's too late).

          • by Evtim (1022085)

            Of course, the aim was to keep their power and perpetuate this inhuman system.

            He, I remember my parents advising me not to discuss politics with anyone but them. Ever. And never to talk at school what they told me about politics, history or anything important really. Because always "someone listens". However, to lighten the tone a bit - paradoxically we (the people) were the champions of telling jokes about the authorities, the Party and the leader. It was simply the national favorite past-time. Even jokes

            • by c0lo (1497653)

              However, to lighten the tone a bit - paradoxically we (the people) were the champions of telling jokes about the authorities, the Party and the leader. It was simply the national favorite past-time. Even jokes that joked about being killed because of telling jokes. We were laughing our heads off! Was it the same in your place?

              Yes, it was the same.

  • Because DHS has so much time and money to spend on other projects. Otherwise, they're a massively over-funded, bloated bureaucracy sticking their nose into places it doesn't belong.

    It's one or the other.

  • If the goal is to deter terrorists then they ought to publish the lists far and wide - if a some bad guy knows he's on the list then (a) he won't bother trying anything and (b) no other terrorists will go anywhere near the guy, thus reducing their ability to organise.

    Unless there is an actual active investigation in process that would be jeopardised, keeping the list a secret is just silly - it's a list of people so dangerous they can't be allowed on an airplane or do other things normal people do but too h

    • And being falsely persecuted by the government wouldn't make you bitter enough to consider the government your enemy. That would just be proof that they knew you were a threat before you did.
    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      We forget that other than for "race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability" workers are discriminated against for everything ELSE, which certainly fits nicely with things such as "being in a government watchlist" --especially if it is public information!

      When you're a frequent business traveller for a company, no matter how accurate the list is it will have name collisions (just do a facebook search for most people you'd like to hook up with and try to actually find the one hit that is the

      • by vlueboy (1799360)

        Forgot to link to the actual government citation [eeoc.gov] for this for you non-US-ians
        Here's the releveant words highlighted in this ephimeral google search [74.6.238.254]

      • Wow. Your argument in favour of secret government lists is that it is more convenient to keep them secret. Screw effectiveness. Forget about actual justice. It's just nicer to keep all that ugly stuff out of public view.

        I suppose you'd be in favour of keeping all arrests private until conviction, just to be sure that no one gets fired because someone with their name got arrested, right?

        • Why not keep arrest lists private until convection. It would prevent people from being convicted in the court of public opinion and possibly ruining their lives. Lets say you were arrested for child molestation (wrongly), now do you think having everyone and their brother know you were "Jah-Wren Ryel Arrested for child molestation" even if later charge were dropped. Unfortunately people hear "Jah-Wren Ryel Arrested child molester" and your life become hell unless you leave town. Now this is an extreme examp
          • Why not keep arrest lists private until convection.

            Because the abuse it leads to is inevitable. Secret arrests mean no public oversight. It's the kind of thing overbearing governments do - disappearing them in the middle of the night. We don't permit secret arrests because the damage to the fabric of society is far greater than the damage to an individual's reputation.

            Same thing with these secret persecution lists - it may be individually more convenient as long as getting put on the list doesn't coincide with any other injustices The problem is that ev

  • ...charging that the existence of the list in secret is a form of conviction without due process of law for the person who finds themselves on the list.

    EVERY form of ruling or decision against a person should have an appeals process. That doesn't mean the process should be easy, or that someone should even have the right to know about their presence on the list until an activity of theirs comes into conflict with the enforcers of the list, but once one has found themselves k-lined they should have the righ

    • by Professr3 (670356)
      Lawsuits have been filed, and they've been dismissed on the basis of national security. The government and its civilian "agencies" are adept at circumventing the spirit of the law while following it *technically* to the letter (or blanketing it with national security when they can't find a legal workaround).
      • So now there are parts of the Government that are not subject to redress by the people? Didn't someone start a war over that? Tried to start their own country, with a government that answers to the people? How did that turn out?
  • Not only does DHS want to "copy and paste" a database that has been proven to be inaccurate from another organization and call it "good", but I'm certain that We the Taxpayers will be shown a $100-million dollar budget estimate, for that "little" project that will likely take 5 years to complete, with a final cost of $300 million.

    In the meantime, damn near every other law-enforcement organization in the world simply uses Facebook...for free...and it's a hundred times more accurate.

    And we wonder why we throw

    • by game kid (805301)

      Not only does DHS want to "copy and paste" a database that has been proven to be inaccurate from another organization and call it "good", but I'm certain that We the Taxpayers will be shown a $100-million dollar budget estimate, for that "little" project that will likely take 5 years to complete, with a final cost of $300 million.

      At least they'd have negotiated down from the "$400 billion" drag and drop that ends up costing $2 trillion.

  • by formfeed (703859) on Tuesday August 09, 2011 @07:10PM (#37038878)

    Hopefully they heard of this guy and have him already in their database.
    http://xkcd.com/327/ [xkcd.com]

  • by batquux (323697)

    If you want to know if you are on the watch list: You are.

  • I honestly have no opinion either way right now because I consider myself uninformed, especially in this instance, but can someone explain this logic? > arguing the Privacy Act says DHS must notify subject of government surveillance. Surely this is silly... If you notify everyone you are conducting surveillance against, you would never stop any crime at all, right?
    • by cusco (717999)
      It's not like they stop any appreciable amount of crime now, they're less efficient than the Hazzard County sheriff department.
    • by dcollins (135727)

      "If you notify everyone you are conducting surveillance against, you would never stop any crime at all, right?"

      Actually, I would think it would stop all crime immediately, but you'd never get to prosecute or imprison or confiscate anyone's property. Which would be fine by me, but I think the goal of the people working with/for the state is the opposite.

      • by Aeiri (713218)
        No, it would only stop crime from people who were being surveilled. Some unknown arms dealer would still conduct his operations, and with this law in place, he would be MORE comfortable doing MORE crime since he would know that he wasn't being surveilled.
  • by merely discussing this program?

    i mean, arent you really allowing the terrorists to win? shouldnt we strip you naked and stick you in solitary confinement for several months and tell everyone its for your own good?

  • Secret Watch Lists!!!

    Sounds -TREASONOUS....

    I love it!!! Lets do it!

    -Hackus

  • How's that hopey changey stuff working out for ya? You got enough hope yet? Enough change? No? Bet you can't wait to vote Obama in for another four years of more hope and change.

  • You don't have anything to worry about... unless, of course, your name is the same as someone else who *has* done something wrong... or maybe look a little like someone who has done something wrong... or look like someone who might be doing something wrong.. or....

  • names? check
    birthdays? check
    photos? check

    all facebook needs now is biometrics.

  • We should call them 'Stasi' and have done, as that's obviously what they're trying to be.

  • Who will watchlist the watchlists?

  • ...and I live abroad for a large portion of the year. Whenever I come home, I make it a point, to enter the country illegally because of this absolute rubbish. The government, can kiss my American ass, I often hope to be arrested or apprehended by immigration so I can whip out my American passport and be like 'Fuck Off'. To be honest folks, at this point...only protesting and more protesting and more protesting is going to make this nonsense stop.

    Sitting here and talking about it, and writing blogs isn't
  • I am sorry, but to know you could be on a no fly list somewhere, and have no way of knowing why or how or even can't apply to be removed, should in itself be illegal.
    I hope US parliament sets up a law against such things....there should atleast be channels to remove yourself from this list if you have been added accidentally or through error.

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