By Arsenio Toledo
The Department of State is giving unrestricted access to the personal data of at least 145 million Americans to federal intelligence and local law enforcement agencies.
According to a letter sent by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, this sharing of private citizen data is occurring without going through proper legal processes or any kind of oversight.
Documents posted by the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that federal intelligence agencies have access to private data, including a citizen’s name, phone number, address, birthday, gender, race and Social Security Number. Agencies also have access to biometric data, including images of the faces retrieved through facial recognition technology and fingerprints. (Related: Senate committee passes bill creating national digital ID system, but they will never require it for voting.)
According to Wyden’s letter to Blinken, the data federal and local agencies are using comes from the passport applications of more than 145 million Americans. Perhaps just as worrisome is the fact that, as Jana Winter of Yahoo! News wrote, “the access essentially comes with no strings attached.”
The information was uncovered by Wyden during his ongoing probe into Operation Whistle Pig, a leak investigation by a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent and his superiors in the CBP’s National Targeting Center, an office that helps gather intelligence to help identify and thwart potential threats coming from overseas.
The investigation was started following allegations that a border patrol agent misused citizen data gathered by the federal government to investigate a reporter’s relationship with a congressional staffer.
State Department provides private data to other agencies with no oversight
Wyden’s letter to Blinken expressed significant concern regarding the access that federal intelligence and local law enforcement agencies have. He also requested detailed information on which federal agencies specifically were provided access to the State Department’s passport information.
The senator noted that in a meeting with Blinken and State Department officials back in mid-July, he was told that 25 other agencies besides the State Department have been granted access to the passport data. He was not told which agencies in particular have access.
There is a lot of clear gaps in what the public knows regarding these agencies and the State Department’s data transfers to them. The department is not under any kind of obligation to give other agencies access to passport data, but Wyden’s investigation finds that the department is doing so anyway and without mandating that these agencies provide subpoenas or court orders first.
Furthermore, it is unknown exactly how many of these 25 agencies have access to the full dataset or if there are levels of access, and to how many these tiers may apply. The State Department has so far refused to provide Wyden with any of these details, including the breakdown of how much access each agency has.
“The breadth of this access highlights the potential for other abuses,” wrote Wyden, whose main concern is that the State Department provided other agencies with access to the data without any kind of oversight. “The Department’s mission does not include providing dozens of other government agencies with self-service access to 145 million Americans’ personal data. The Department has voluntarily taken on this role, and in doing so, prioritized the interests of other agencies over those of law-abiding Americans.”
This shows that Wyden would be more than willing to allow the State Department and any other federal or local agency to have access to private citizen information provided that the process by which these agencies gain that access is regulated in a “reasonable” manner.
“While there is a legitimate role for the use of this information by law enforcement, the current unregulated system of inter-agency access to millions of Americans’ records goes far beyond what a reasonable person would expect or tolerate,” wrote Wyden.
Watch this video from Epoch TV discussing how the State Department is joining a globalist movement to impose more surveillance regulations on internet activity.