Thursday, March 06, 2008

The N-DEx: World's authoritarian regimes are green with envy!

The WaPo reports:

"Several thousand law enforcement agencies are creating the foundation of a domestic intelligence system through computer networks that analyze vast amounts of police information to fight crime and root out terror plots."

The system is called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, and the WaPo reports: "Federal authorities hope N-DEx will become what one called a 'one-stop shop' enabling federal law enforcement, counterterrorism and intelligence analysts to automatically examine the enormous caches of local and state records for the first time."

Great, just what we need! From the people who brought you FEMA and the formaldehyde trailers now comes a massive datebase that will sweep up "names of suspects, associates, victims, persons of interest, witnesses and any other person named in an incident, arrest, booking, parole or probation report," all into one big package that any cop, FBI agent, some boed guy at Raytheon -- you name it -- can just pull up and do God knows what with.

Not that I'm against the police or the FBI or whatever being on top of things, but I don't have a great deal of confidence that every cop out there is on the up and up and as I'm listening to David Simon, writer of the WIRE, right now on Fresh Air, I'm becoming even more uncomfortable with the thought of putting that kind of power into the hands of tens of thousands of cops all over the country.

The FBI site on the N-Dex says:

"Although law enforcement will be the primary focus of N-DEx, future iterations will incorporate the full criminal justice community. The ultimate goal is to transform all criminal justice data (sensitive but unclassified) into knowledge for the entire justice community."

The article mentions that the technology is moving a lot faster than the legislation to protect people's privacy, which begs the question: How much are they going to get away with before congress gets around to putting the breaks on.

The WaPo also reports today that FBI director Robert Mueller:

"Told senators yesterday that agents improperly used a type of administrative subpoena to obtain personal data about Americans until internal reforms were enacted last year. Mueller said a forthcoming report from the Justice Department's inspector general will find that abuses recurred in the agency's use of national security letters in 2006, echoing similar problems to those identified in earlier audits.

A year ago, lawmakers of both parties called for limits on the FBI's use of the security letters, which demand consumer information from banks, credit card companies and other institutions without a warrant as part of investigations into suspected terrorism and espionage. Congress has not followed through with legislation, however, and Mueller sought to assure lawmakers that internal changes will solve the problems. He said new FBI procedures will 'minimize the chance of future lapses,' including the creation of a compliance office tasked with monitoring the use of security letters."

Gosh, I feel better already! It's the "trust me" government.

The ACLU says:

"The National Security Letter provision of the Patriot Act radically expanded the FBI's authority to demand personal records like Web site visits and e-mail addresses without prior court approval. The provision also allows the FBI to forbid or 'gag' anyone who receives an NSL from telling anyone about the record demand."

Maybe, if congress actually read the legislation it votes for in the first place, it wouldn't have to spend so much time undoing what it had already done. Meanwhile, expect more "lapses" like the 1000 or so the FBI is willing to admit to over the past few years.


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