More Big Brother: The Illegal Watch List of Gun Owners

Since I have just written about Big Brother and the Second Amendment, perhaps I should bring up another aspects that isn’t new, but is illegal. It doesn’t even have the fig leaf of an executive order covering its criminality.

Late last year, the Washington Post reported,

“Membership in a terrorist organization does not prohibit a person from possessing firearms or explosives under current federal law,” the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2010. The law prohibits felons, fugitives, drug addicts and domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm in the United States. But people on the FBI’s consolidated terrorist watchlist — typically placed there when there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are a known or suspected terrorist — can freely purchase handguns or assault-style rifles.

And, as the GAO found, a number of them do: Between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded.

So the GAO is tracking who purchases guns. As the Antimeda blog explains:

Upon first reading, many Americans might be glad the authorities are keeping an eye on those potential terrorists in our midst. Of course, the facts are a little different. The term “suspected terrorists” in this case means somebody on the combined terrorist watch-list. These are people that may have never been convicted or even charged with a crime. The list has expanded so much that there are around 700,000 names on the list. They include a number of journalists, former Department of Justice ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack, Nelson Mandela, and the list of non-terrorists and false positives goes on forever. Known nonviolent activists have been added to the list because there is no real justification required to be placed on it, only a “reasonable suspicion.”

Even more disturbing is that to make the matches, the government must retain records on everyone, or at least have every purchase in a supposedly confidential system scanned. That data is being shared within the government, contrary to federal law. When the FBI released its figures, it went as far as saying that 2,000 known or suspected terrorists bought a pistol, sports rifle, or assault weapon. This means they are collecting information about the types of purchases as well. Just matching a name to a list would not be enough to come up with accurate data. This means the NICS program, which was promised to be free from other agencies, is sharing personal data such as name, date of birth, address, and social security number.

To be very clear, the NICS system is retaining records of legal purchases, it is sharing that information with other agencies, it is retaining and sharing information containing enough detail to match the purchaser to a government created list, and now the US government is publicizing the fact that it is doing this even though it is a violation of federal law.

As the blog post recounts, when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was set up, the law was carefully written to prohibit the federal government from constructing a database of legal gun owners.

So not only is the federal government plainly violating the law, but they are shamelessly letting us know that they are doing so. It is using the artificially generated media panic to distract us from what it is doing (even though Americans are not panicked). This is how the government sets a precedent and erodes the law.