Since the horrors of World War II, people in the U.S. have feared that one day our intelligence community would create an organization to spy upon innocent citizens, collecting and storing information about them for some devious purpose like the Nazi Gestapo or SS once did. Some people believe that day has come.

An article published on Dec. 20, 2010, by the Washington Post stated "a vast domestic intelligence apparatus" was in the process of being expanded. The story, the result of a multi-month investigation included almost 100 interviews and 1,000 documents. It reported that the federal government was working to consolidate the manpower of the FBI, local police, state Homeland Security officials and military criminal investigators in their efforts to fight terror at home.

The initiative, Top Secret America, is composed of 3,984 federal, state and local agencies, of which at least 934 have been created since Sept. 11 because of their involvement in counterterrorism, the Post reported.

According to the Post, each agency has their own jurisdiction and is charged with certain tasks regarding counterterrorism operations. Working collaboratively, these agencies will collect, store and analyze information gathered on thousands of U.S. citizens and legal residents, most of whom have no criminal record.

"I'm kind of scared about getting naked again in my own home because some nerdy little NSA analyst has the government's permission to see through walls. Next thing you know, they're going to be sticking chips in our babies' heads in order to know all things at all times," said Andrew Dixon, freshman biological and agricultural engineering major.

Not only has the workforce expanded, but they now have new toys as well. Military-grade hardware has migrated from the front lines to the homefront in efforts to eradicate homegrown terror. Police departments, state branches of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use equipment such as infrared scanners, hand-held fingerprint scanners, Predator drones equipped with real-time, full-motion video cameras and biometric identification machines to observe and catalogue "suspicious activity," the Post reported.

How do agencies get the money to pay for this expensive equipment? The government pays for it. According to the Post, the Department of Homeland Security has given $31 billion in funding to state and local counterterrorism agencies since 2003. That includes $3.8 billion in 2010 alone.

"Technology like cameras that automatically read license plates and fingerprint scanners would allow law enforcement officers to fight local crimes more efficiently," said Sarah Valenzuela, sophomore allied health major. "[However], spending millions of dollars to monitor people who have clean criminal records could result in false charges, infringe on people's privacy, and might just be a waste of valuable time and resources."

All the information gathered must be stored somewhere. The Guardian database is a huge repository of information located in the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D. C. According to the Post, the Guardian contains profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who have done nothing wrong. These files are accessed by numerous federal, state and local agencies in the course of investigations.

If a law enforcement official, counterterrorism agent or even a paranoid neighbor observes something they think is suspicious such as taking pictures of a bridge or shoplifting some Tylenol for a headache, they can file a "suspicious activity" report and that person's information is on file forever.

"[I think] too many people would have access to the huge database containing the personal information of possibly 'suspicious' citizens," Valenzuela said. "This could result in abuse of the system by extremist members of the hundreds of organizations investigating potential terrorists."

Vicki Duarte, sophomore allied health major, voiced the concerns of many regarding the ethicality and financial feasibility of the so-called "spy network."

"I understand what the government is trying to do with this system, but it doesn't seem to have a high success rate," Duarte said. "I don't think it's worth the money and loss of privacy since most of the cases don't reach a conclusion. Put the information collected in the wrong hands and we'll have even more problems."