Social Security shared data with FBI

With Congress considering new privacy-eroding measures in Patriot Act (and making the law permanent), and similar measures being weighed by the Homeland Security Department, comes this disturbing news. This did make the front page of the NY Times today, albeit below the fold. A good thing this came to light, even if years after the fact. But what’s scary is that this is going on without even token approval of Congress. As lawmakers debate the Patriot Act, the bureaucracy bends the rules without even asking permission…

Social Security data used in 9/11 probe
Published June 22, 2005

WASHINGTON — Federal officials checked thousands of normally private Social Security files in investigations of suspected terrorists, The New York Times reported.

Social Security Administration officials agreed to an “ad hoc” authorization of information the FBI said was related to its post-Sept. 11, 2001, investigations, the newspaper said Wednesday. The same methods were used in the investigation into the 2002 Washington-area sniper shootings.

An unnamed former senior FBI official told the Times the bureau “ran thousands of Social Security numbers. We got very useful information, that’s for sure.” He said the information allowed the FBI to track leads regarding suspected terrorists.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., told the Times the investigation had “real civil liberties implications for abuse.” She also questioned whether Congress had been adequately informed, the Times said.

The Times article was based on documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center through Freedom of Information Act requests.