Friday, December 11, 2009

Six Files the US Government Keeps on You...and How to Obtain a Copy

I recently received an email from a Carolyne Friedman alerting me to an extremely useful article she recently posted on her blog (The Forensic Scientist Blog) entitled “Six Files the US Government Keeps on You, and How to Obtain a Copy”.

Now, I think there's probably a whole lot of us out there that have worked on "subversive issues" (for instance, I worked a whole lot on electronic voting systems and the election theft of 2004), attended protests (i.e. anti-war, anti-wall street, ant-"free trade"), and/or have been generally outspoken in print, radio, or even video against a variety of government or corporate actions, that have wondered, "What kind of information does the government have on me?"

I've recently even considered filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for my files...but just never quite got around to doing the leg work it would take to do it, let alone determining what it would take to do so and where to even look.

Thanks to the article from Carolyn, some important questions in this regard have been answered. As she notes, "With literally hundreds of agencies working in a variety of fields, the government can keep track of every citizen, resident, and more from birth to death. With the problem of identity thieves and misinformation, these files can hurt you or be a life saver.

In just the past few weeks I've written about law enforcement making 8 million requests to Sprint for customer GPS data information in a one year period, Facebook reportedly receiving up to 100 demands each week from the government seeking information about its users, AOL reportedly receiving 1,000 demands a month, and in 2006, a U.S. Attorney demanded book purchase records of 24,000 customers.

And let's also remember, companies like Google for instance (the grandaddy of them all), don't make public how often information about their users is demanded or disclosed.

Over the past few years we've also come to learn that millions of Americans have been wiretapped by the government without it having to produce a warrant.

And just last month, the Senate renewed some of the most egregious components of the Constitution eviscerating Patriot Act, including:

  • Allowing broad warrants to be issued by a secretive court for any type of record, from financial to medical, without the government having to declare that the information sought is connected to a terrorism or espionage investigation.
  • Renewing the so-called “roving wiretap” provision, allowing the FBI to obtain wiretaps from the secret court, known as the FISA court, without identifying the target or what method of communication is to be tapped.
  • Renewing the so-called “lone wolf” measure that allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of a person for whatever reason — even without showing that the suspect is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist.
  • And of course, the government can still essentially break into your house as long as it doesn't tell you...may the 4th Amendment rest in peace.

All things considered then, I'd say we have plenty of reason to be interested in what information the government may, or may not have on us, and for what reason?

Carolyn breaks down the six key files the government keeps on us, what we can do about obtaining each, and why you should have them. Here's a shortened description of each with links:

1. F.B.I. Files: According to, the Federal Bureau of Investigations keeps files on every person in the entire United States.

2. Your Homeland Security File: Are you a regular international traveler? Then chances are the Department of Homeland Security has a file on you. This blogger put in a request to get their file, with amazing and impressive results.

3. C.I.A. Records: You don’t have to be a slick burglar to obtain a copy of the record the Central Intelligence Agency may or may not have on you.

4. Your Earnings: The U.S. Social Security office keeps a constant track of all earnings since you filled out your first W-2. They know how much you have made, how much taxes you have paid, and how much you stand to earn on retirement.

5. Criminal Records: This is a useful search if you have had trouble with the law and want to know what is out there on you. Also a good idea if you’ve never been in trouble to make sure your records reflect that.

6. Court Records: If you have ever gotten so much as a parking ticket, the government has court records on you. Like most government records, they are public and subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

But don't take my word for it, check out the article in its entirety.

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