A couple of days ago a memorandum sent to a long list of administration officials was posted on the White House website. When I first saw it, I wondered what the implications of it might be, and decided to take more time to think about it before posting any comment here.
The subject of the memo is: Integration, Sharing, and Use of National Security Threat Actor Information to Protect Americans.
It is a directive for “…the development and implementation of appropriate technical architectures and corresponding policy frameworks to advance the integration, sharing, and use of identity attributes and associated derogatory information for each individual category of evaluated national security threat actor information described in the annex to this memorandum.”
So far, I have not seen the annex to this memorandum, but I expect it would provide helpful details.
My immediate reaction was two-fold. First, this action to consolidate and coordinate information among federal agencies seemed long overdue, but second, the potential for abuse of surveillance and data collection on American citizens is enormous. The following excerpt from the policy paragraph raised some concerns for me:
National security threat actor information comprises identity attributes and associated information about individuals, organizations, groups, or networks assessed to be a threat to the safety, security, or national interests of the United States that fall into one or more of the categories listed in the annex to this memorandum.
On the other hand, the last paragraph of the policy section (below) theoretically provides some caveats that ought to alleviate those concerns, but my lack of trust in this administration looms and I believe this whole process bears close watching.
This memorandum shall be implemented in a manner that is consistent with applicable law and Presidential guidance; safeguards intelligence sources, methods, and activities; protects otherwise sensitive information and preserves the integrity of sensitive operations and investigations; and appropriately protects privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, and other constitutional and statutory rights, including through compliance with applicable guidelines governing the collection, retention, and dissemination of personally identifiable information.
I did a brief online search to see if there was anything like this issued before and found a Federal Times article helpful. This appears to be an initiative of the National Security Council, as an anonymous official from the Council is quoted in the article. One quote in particular strikes me as a useful result from this initiative:
The official elaborated that an objective of the memo was to come up with a system where one agency’s investigations and information can be deconflicted so that another agency doesn’t unintentionally take contradictory action.
The various agency heads have 270 days to submit the plan for implementation of this memorandum to the president. That means by early June 2018 we should be hearing more about this initiative.
Official Title and Link: National Security Presidential Memorandum
Memorandum dated October 4 and posted October 5, 2017