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US government ‘creating vast domestic snooping machine’

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The government is creating a vast domestic spying network to collect information about Americans in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent terror plots, The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest and William Arkin reported Monday.

The government is using for this purpose the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators, the daily added.

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The system collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of US citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing, the report noted.

Among other things, the investigative series reveals:

* Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.

* The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.

* Seeking to learn more about Islam and terrorism, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies.

* The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.

The government’s goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, noted the paper, which has conducted its own investigation of the matter.

According to the report, the network includes 4,058 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counter-terrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions.

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At least 935 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks, The Post said.

The probe has revealed that technologies and techniques developed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in the United States, the paper pointed out.

In addition, the FBI is building a database with the names and personal information of thousands of US citizens and residents, the report said.

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The database is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, the report noted.

In a bid to counter what is seen as a threat from radical Islam, some law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers people whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by US intelligence agencies, the paper pointed out.

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The cost of the network is difficult to measure, the paper said. But the Department of Homeland Security has given 31 billion dollars in grants since 2003 to state and local governments for homeland security and to improve their ability to find and protect against terrorists, The Post said.

Only this year, it gave 3.8 billion dollars to local law enforcement agencies.

The full story is available at The Washington Post.

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