Attorney: FBI Screening Gun Owners against Terror Database without Authority
“FBI admits unauthorized program against American gun owners,” attorney and policy analyst Paloma Capanna charged in an update on Robinson vs. Sessions, a lawsuit on civil rights violations resulting from matches on the “No-Fly List.”
“The US DOJ Attorneys admitted in their Answering Brief that the FBI screens ‘all’ Americans seeking to lawfully purchase a firearm against the Terrorist Screening Database (“TSDB”),” Capanna wrote, quoting:
“Since 2004, as part of its background checks for all potential firearms purchasers, the NICS has searched a file containing a list of known or suspected terrorists that is exported by the Terrorist Screening Center from the TSDB into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database.”
Back in 2015 then-Director James Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and made it sound like an exception where FBI was “alerted” and “notified.” Additionally, in his exchange with Sen. Chuck Grassley, he noted “There are a variety of things that we do when we are notified that someone on our known or suspected terrorist database is attempting to buy a firearm,” up to and including stopping the transaction, placing a suspect under surveillance, or arrest.
We’ve discussed the danger of using such lists, developed in secret from undisclosed sources of unknown (to the public) reliability. We’ve also seen how flight denials can be based on mistakes, as happened to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. How many Americans have such resources and connections to be able to expeditiously clear matters up? We’ve also seen serious National Instant Check System flaws, and how “Virtually all of those denied purchasing a gun are false positives.”
We’ve seen Joint Terrorism Task Force triggers as bafflingly all-encompassing as defending the Constitution, supporting liberty candidates and ideals, sporting such apparel or bumper stickers, paying in cash, shaving your beard, and traveling an “illogical” distance to a gun-related event. We’ve seen the sorry state of bureaucratic overreach and infringements devolve into the even more ridiculous, as with the Pennsylvania man placed on a watch list after regularly taking a giant inflatable pink pig to political rallies.
Those demanding gun purchases be halted because of secret lists of unknown accuracy, administered by faceless bureaucrats with unknown sympathies and motives, are essentially advocating for a police state, where fundamental rights can be denied without due process. And face it—if you were a terrorist, and were further inclined to buy a gun “legally,” wouldn’t a NICS denial be a pretty good indication that you’ve been made, and allow you to evade and respond with countermeasures?
Capanna’s revelation adds the further troubling dimension of a federal agency involving itself in an area where it has no legal authorization to do so. But in the absence of a provable denial, having standing to stop the practice in court could be problematic, protracted and expensive. Nonetheless, Paloma maintains all gun purchasers subjected to NICS have been harmed:
“[T]he violation of their civil rights begins the moment the FBI secretly uses their personal information from the ATF Form 4473 for the unauthorized purpose of checking them against the TSDB … Robinson vs. Sessions is about Privacy – the confidentiality of the personal information submitted on the ATF Form 4473. It’s about Due Process – including that neither the ATF nor the FBI tells you what they’re doing with your personal information. It’s about Equal Protection – because American gun owners are the only category or class singled out for discriminatory treatment as being the most likely group responsible for terrorist acts carried out with a firearm.”
An alternative way to stop this would be by having Congress intervene. Such efforts take time and are fraught with delays and resistance, and the current crop of do-nothing Republicans caving to obstructionist Democrats means relief is not something we can count on.
Still, there is one person who can cut through the red tape with a stroke of the pen. Donald Trump owes his presidency to gun owners. The FBI reports to AG Sessions who reports to him. He has authority to issue an executive order and stop the unauthorized practice today.
Unless he hears from a lot of concerned gun owners, most who will remain unaware of this issue thanks to deliberate indifference outside of a niche liberty advocacy readership, don’t count on it.
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David Codrea’s opinions are his own. See “Who speaks for Oath Keepers?”