Hysterical civil libertarians?
Posted by aogSaturday, 01 March 2003 at 16:27 TrackBack Ping URL
Orin Judd has posted an article about a recent decision by Congress to oppose the "Total Information Awareness" project. To quote Mr. Judd,
When the 9-11 attacks occurred and it became clear how closely the terrorists fit a seemingly obvious profile — [...] everyone beat their chest and demanded the heads of folks at the FBI and CIA who'd failed to pick up on these signs. Now the government comes up with a daring and innovative plan to just possibly--though, this being the government, one doubts it--notice such connections next time and people demand it be stopped lest one more computer somewhere know what many other corporate computers already know about them
I disagree with this in multiple ways.

First, it's not that government computers will know more things about it, it's that government employees will. The same sort of employees who populate the DMV and INS. The same type that work in the IRS and look at people's tax returns. If a private company has employees that do that kind of thing, they can get sued or even arrested. If some government employee does it, it's not clear they'll even be fired.

Second, this is like the Democratic Party's attempt to overcome basic flaws with advanced technology. Apparently this view is that since the agencies are fundamentally flawed, we need to give them even more power to compensate for their ineffeciencies. I'd much prefer working on fixing them. But that's hard work, political contentious, involves no wizzy new gadgets or big budgets and even if you succeed it doesn't get your name in papers. Far better to put out some sparkly new facade on a broken frame.

Third is the history of the FBI's attempts at high technology. Instead of working on TIA and that Cool New Stuff™ perhaps the FBI and Congress should work on getting the FBI's information integrated. It seems to me that the FBI wants access to private data so they don't have to admit that they can't search their own data. Which leads to the next point.

I just don't accept that if new terrorists attacks are successful that those who blocked this will bear responsibility. I would place far more on those currently in power that have made no real effort to reform our current efforts (a list of people that would include President Bush). We have seen numerous reports of how the FBI or other agencies were on the trail of these people but were warned off. Or how the FBI delibarately thwarted terror investigations. When you've got a drunk driver, you don't buy him a bigger car to prevent injury, you get him sober.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
oj Sunday, 02 March 2003 at 21:11

If you started reading one computer profile of one citizen today, how many do you think you could read by the time you die? a couple hundred? a couple thousand? ten thousand? In a nation of 280 million. It’s just not a serious issue.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 03 March 2003 at 11:11

But the files aren’t read at random, the files are selected specifically by employees who either are celebrity groupies or have an axe to grind. But even if that weren’t the case, I would still not support this because it’s using a James Bond, not a Sam Walton approach to providing internal security. Why reward those who screwed up before with more enablement of their systemic problems? Just tell me why data dredged up by this system won’t be surpressed or ignored like the data dredged up by the old system.

End of Discussion