Recently declassified documents show that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) National Security Branch Analysis Center (NSAC), a data-mining system that was proposed as a tool to track down terrorists, is being used in hacker and domestic criminal investigations. NSAC’s database now contains more than 1.5 billion government and private-sector records on U.S. citizens and foreigners, including tens of thousands of records from private databases, according to the declassified documents. Critics say the database is increasingly close to the Total Information Awareness system first proposed by the Pentagon following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The FBI is currently looking to quadruple the staff of the NSAC program. However, the proposal has been heavily criticized by privacy groups as being both invasive and ineffective, and critics say the declassified documents show that the plan is being continued in private and without sufficient oversight. NSAC contains more than 55,000 entries on customers of the Cendant Hotel chain, with entries for hotel customers whose names match those on a list the FBI provided to the company. An additional 730 records are from the Avis rental car company, which were collected through a one-time search of Avis’ database matched against the State Department’s terrorist watch list, and 165 entries are from credit card transaction histories from the Sears department store chain. An analysis of the documents shows that the FBI has continuously expanded the NSAC system since 2004, and by 2008, NSAC had 103 full-time employees and contractors. The FBI wants to add 71 additional employees and is seeking $8 million for outside contractors to help analyze the data.
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