Domestic spy network tracks US citizens
The US government is currently in the process of refining an extensive domestic spy network that collects, stores and analyzes data about thousands of American citizens and residents.
According to the Washington Post, a number of law enforcement agencies are actively participating in the rapidly evolving network, including the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.
Currently, the network encompasses a staggering 4,058 federal, state and local organizations - each with their own counter-terrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions.
At least 935 of the above-mentioned organizations were created in the wake of the devastating September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Unsurprisingly, some are actively leveraging advanced surveillance techniques developed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For example, hand-held, wireless fingerprint scanners were carried by US troops in Iraq to register residents of entire neighborhoods.
Now, L-1 Identity Solutions is selling the same type of equipment to police departments to check motorists' identities.
Of course, not all law enforcement officials believe a vast domestic spy network is the most efficient way to prevent terrorist activity.
"It's more likely that other kinds of more focused efforts by local police will gain you the information that you need about extremist activities," Charles Allen, a longtime senior CIA official, told the WaPost.
And Michael German, a former FBI agent who now leads the American Civil Liberties Union's campaign on national security and privacy matters, says the enigmatic network "opens a door" to all kinds of potential abuses.
But Memphis Police Director Godwin insists the controversial spy grid could help law enforcement officials counter both violent crime and terrorist activity.
"We have our own terrorists, and they are taking lives every day.
"No, we don't have suicide bombers - not yet. But you need to remain vigilant and realize how vulnerable you can be if you let up," he added.