Justice Dept. Opposes Disclosure of Data-Mining Plans

by TChris

Accountability is a distraction, and the Justice Department doesn't want to be bothered with it. After all, whenever the government has been honest about its efforts to gather data about the American public -- most notably in its development of the Total Information Awareness program -- Congress has overwhelmingly disapproved. And so the Justice Department would prefer to bypass Congress, which is why it opposes a provision in the House bill to renew the Patriot Act that "would require the Justice Department to report to Congress annually on government-wide efforts to develop and use data-mining technology to track intelligence patterns."

[A] set of talking points distributed among Republican lawmakers as the measure was being debated warned that the Justice Department was opposed to the amendment because it would add to the list of "countless reports" already required by Congress and would take time away from more critical law enforcement activities.

Translation: the provision would require accountability, and that's something the Justice Department hates. So, apparently, does Rep. Peter Hoekstra, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who fears (despite a provision that would permit classified information to be disclosed in a separate, confidential report) that classified information "would be shared with the judiciary committees instead of the intelligence committees." Hoekstra apparently doesn't regard any committee other than his own as trustworthy. But every committee with oversight responsibility should have the information it needs to do its job, and oversight is exactly what the Justice Department fears.

An unlikely ally for those who think elected representatives should know what unelected members of the executive branch are up to: Rep. James Sensenbrenner.

Mr. Sensenbrenner said that past data-mining programs by the F.B.I. and other agencies, even before the Sept. 11 attacks, had wasted tax dollars and "compromised the privacy of literally millions of Americans," and he said members of Congress had a right to know when the government was planning to use such technology in the future.

For once, the guy is right.

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  • Re: Justice Dept. Opposes Disclosure of Data-Minin (none / 0) (#1)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:35 PM EST
    2nd translation: We're too busy illegally compiling data on people to respond to requests on whether we're illegally compiling data on people.