Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We are shocked, shocked to find data-mining going on!

Guest Blogger: ACLU Member & Volunteer Herb Kestenbaum

Well, the feds are at it again, raking in billions of pieces of information on anyone entering or leaving the U.S. and somehow - we don't know precisely - deciding who among them could be today's or tomorrow's terrorists. And that data, about millions of American citizens as well as foreigners, will be kept for 40 years. It does not matter whether the data concerns those the government finds to be "innocent" or whether the information is accurate. And that mass of raw information held by Big Brother will be available - from our Department of Homeland Security - to other branches of government.

This is the Automated Targeting System. It was initially used to scan cargo. Now, it's being used on people, lumping people and products together as possible threats to national security.

So, when did this change happen? In 2002. When were we told? Last month. Can the data, if you could even get access to it, be checked for accuracy and be changed? No. Hell, you can check your financial credit rating, which affects part of your life, but you can't check your terrorist rating, which can affect your individual liberties and freedoms granted by the U.S. Constitution. Under the Bush regime, you have no right to review what may be inaccurate information, false accusations, discrimination based on race or religion or political beliefs or sexual preference. Nor can you limit who can use that information or to what purpose.

The feds just don't stop snooping, regardless of the cost to citizens. They tried to data-mine consumer and banking records to find patterns they said made people terrorist suspects. That was in 2002, and that program, the infamous Total Information Awareness, was killed. Undeterred, Big Brother - in that same year - just shifted its focus and created the latest outrage.

Where does this stop? When does the government start treating its citizens as private individuals, with the right to live their lives free of concern that the government not only is monitoring them but rating their loyalty and character as well?

More on the issue: ACLU press release; AP Story

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