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Suspicious activity reporting: U.S. domestic intelligence in a postprivacy age?

Government Secrecy

ISBN: 978-0-85724-389-8, eISBN: 978-0-85724-390-4

Publication date: 26 January 2011


The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI) is the focal point of the Information Sharing Environment (ISE), a radical reformulation of policies governing government intelligence activities within US borders. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, long-standing informational norms for the production, use, and circulation of domestic intelligence records containing personal information are being replaced with far less restrictive norms, altering a status quo that had been in effect since mid-1970s. Although the NSI represents an unprecedented expansion of human resources dedicated to the collection and production of domestic intelligence, it is not well known in privacy advocacy community. This chapter considers these and other terms in the context of relevant US law and policy, including the Privacy Act of 1974, the E-Government Act of 2002, Executive Order 12333, and 28 CFR Part 23. In addition to describing the federal (ISE-SAR) standard, the chapter examines the critical role of guidance in the logic of suspicious activity report (SAR) production, and the problematic role finished ISE-SARs seem to play in the matrix of federal and state-level watch lists. The program, if not properly regulated, could pose a considerable threat to personal privacy and the life chances and self-determination of all US persons. The chapter considers this threat in terms of Nissenbaum's (2010) “contextual integrity,” a theory of context-relative informational norms.



Farrall, K. (2011), "Suspicious activity reporting: U.S. domestic intelligence in a postprivacy age?", Maret, S. (Ed.) Government Secrecy (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 247-276.



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