The new documentary 1971, about the formerly anonymous FBI burglars who exposed the crimes of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, debuted to a rapt audience at the Tribeca film festival last night. As the filmmakers noted in an interview with the AP, the parallels between Nixon-era FBI whistleblowers and Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations are almost eerie in their similarity.
But while the NSA connection seems obvious, the movie will actually shed light on the domestic intelligence agency with far more power over ordinary Americans: the modern FBI.
Everyone seems to forget that the FBI is the NSA’s primary partner in the latter’s domestic spying operations and that, in fact, the NSA’s job would be impossible without them. Whenever you see a company deny giving any data to the NSA remember: It’s because it’s not the NSA asking (or demanding) the information of them, it’s the FBI. They use the same Patriot Act authorities that the NSA does, and yet we have almost no idea what they do with it.
In fact, the FBI has gone to extreme lengths to just keep their surveillance methods a secret from the public, just like the NSA. And the more we learn, the scarier it gets.
On Monday, the EFF revealed through its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the FBI’s “next generation” facial recognition program will have as many as 52m photographs in it next year – including millions that were taken for “non-criminal purposes.” It’s massive biometric database already “may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population,” EFF found.