Tag, You're It: For 40 Years

The ACLU (received by e-mail, on line link should be here later) brings our attention to a new Government program in the works called the Automated Tracking System:

The American Civil Liberties Union today condemned an unprecedented new program for generating terrorist ratings on tens of millions of travelers, including American citizens, maintaining those ratings for 40 years, and making them available throughout the government.

"Never before in American history has our government gotten into the business of creating mass 'risk assessment' ratings of its own citizens," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "That is a radical new step with far-reaching implications - but one that has been taken almost thoughtlessly by expanding a cargo-tracking system to incorporate human beings, and with little public notice, discussion, or debate."

Originally intended for cargo, it's now going to be applied to people, and scheduled to be implemented December 4.

Update: It also tracks what travellers eat.

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    What I would like to know (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Al on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 02:11:04 PM EST
    is why does airport security check for shampoo but not, apparently, for Polonium-210.

    The worst thing about all these "terrorist-tracking" programs is that they're run by idiots who couldn't tell a terrorist from a chimpanzee.

    Don't see much of a problem (2.33 / 3) (#14)
    by Dr Octagon on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 06:44:02 PM EST
    This system doesn't subject us to any new invasive data-collecting measures.  It just implements a new type of analysis.

    It's one thing to argue that the national security apparatus shouldn't have access to personal data in the first place, but that battle has been lost.  What's at issue here is whether this data is used constructively or indiscriminately.

    If the government has information about me that I don't believe it should have, then I oppose the collection of that information.  How the data is analyzed is not a civil liberties issue.  Collection and use are the problems.  Civil libertarians have no foundation to oppose how the information is analyzed, however.  That's a matter for national security and information-management specialists.


    The opposition to it... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Edger on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 06:55:10 PM EST
    ...has nothing to do with "how the information is analyzed".

    You're attempting to set up one of the most transparent strawman arguments I've seen devised.
    Ineptly too, I might add.

    What gives you the idea that people are stupid enough to fall for it? Experience? Do only stupid people associate with you?

    It has to do with the purpose for which it is analyzed.

    From the ACLU link:

    "When some unknown government computer, using unknown sources of information, tags you as a `security risk' [maintaining those ratings for 40 years] and begins circulating that label around the government, you will have no meaningful way of finding out why you were given that label, let alone challenging its validity."

    It doesn't matter (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Al on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 09:13:16 PM EST
    What matters is what the idiots do with the data. If you find yourself unable to board a plane, you won't say "That's all right, because this decision was not based on invasive collection of data, just an asinine interpretation of said data".

    You're smug because you think none of this will affect you, nothing that you do could possibly be associated with terrorism. You have nothing to be afraid of, right?


    moving the goal posts (4.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Sailor on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 07:47:54 PM EST
    This system doesn't subject us to any new invasive data-collecting measures.  It just implements a new type of analysis.
    Actually, it does both. Your premise fails at the first sentence.

    that battle has been lost
    No, that battle will be fought over and over. You can lose a battle and still fight the war.

    Civil libertarians have no foundation to oppose how the information is analyzed, however.  That's a matter for national security and information-management specialists.
    Gee, big brother gets to decide and us citizens don't? What country are you from!?

    You meant... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Edger on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 08:12:09 PM EST
    ...planet, didn't you Sailor? ;-)

    Perhaps we're confusing terms... (1.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Dr Octagon on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 12:58:10 AM EST
    I am under the impression that the Western concept of "liberty" means freedom of speech and action except insofar as they may cause physical harm to another.

    Our Supreme Court added privacy to the gambit of civil liberties in Griswold, but the "penumbra" identified within the Bill of Rights served more as a wall against moral paternalism.  After all, the primary privacy interest that concerns us civil libertarians concerns the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment.

    That being said, I fail to see how this program limits freedom.  The ACLU hypothesizes that this program will result in the banning of airline passengers, without recourse.  But the cold technology of data-analysis is no more blameworthy for this hypothesized result than the telephone used by national security agents to instruct the TSA.

    Should "the [thunderclap] Government" throw citizens off of planes without any explanation or recourse?  Of course not.  But law enforcement is not responsible for establishing its own guidelines for the judicious use of data.  We leave that decision to the judicial system.  

    So my point is this:  if the ACLU is worried about the freedom to fly, it should seek judicial review of TSA decisions.  If, however, critics oppose this program because they really believe that this information should never be collected in the first place, then attack the collection.  But to attack the data-analysis program is worse than attacking a straw man.  It's attacking a Pentium processor.


    I also think.... (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by kdog on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 09:09:08 AM EST
    liberty means the right to travel freely without undue restrictions....the collection of this data can only lead to free americans being restricted from air travel.

    I think civil libertarians or anyone who values liberty should oppose the collection of the data and the analysis of the data...the whole ball of wax.  All those roads lead to tyranny.


    He is looking for agreement to justify..... (none / 0) (#25)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 10:22:47 AM EST
    We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

    You've got to be kidding... (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 11:22:28 AM EST
    ...where you say:

    But to attack the data-analysis program is worse than attacking a straw man.  It's attacking a Pentium processor.

    Not when that data, as interpreted by a machine, yes, but MACHINES PROGRAMMED BY MAN, can be used to label you a suspected terrorist, based upon a variety of criteria that you cannot review, cannot contest, and do not know that can operate to effectively destroy your life EVEN IF THE DATA WAS ENTERED IN ERROR, and you don't see a problem?

    And the file is un-reviewable, uncorrectable, and cannot be challenged, seen, or contested in a court of law and you STILL don't see anything wrong with this?

    Suppose you are inadvertently rude to an airline ticket agent and that agent gets even by entering all sorts of data indicating you may be a terrorist, and you STILL don't see a problem with this?

    Remember GIGO - garbage in, garbage out, and the propensity for people to make errors when they are tired, sick, working double overtime under protest, or maybe they are just a bigot, homophobe, xenophobe, racist, or just a plainly rude and ugly-spirited person working for an airline that decides to get even with every group with who he disagrees or dislikes and you STILL don't see a problem of a forty year, non-reviewable, non-correctable dossier on you?

    No, my question is how did America devolve into a worse-than-communist society collecting dossiers on every citizen through one databank or another.

    It's despicable, it's un-American, violates our rights, and can label us a terrorist threat without a shred of hard evidence tying anyone to any illegal activities and YOU STILL DON'T SEE A PROBLEM WITH IT?

    Ve vill maken sure zat iss entered into ze dossier ve haf on you.


    There obviously aren't, for you,.. (none / 0) (#22)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 01:06:16 AM EST
    ...points that you can't repeatedly miss, are there?
    Even when explicitly told what they are.

    Agree. (1.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Gabriel Malor on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 06:49:34 PM EST
    If the government already has this information, they damn well better use it effectively.

    This is nearly... (4.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Edger on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 07:08:48 PM EST
    ...as good as the Military Commissions Act.

    Right, Gabriel?


    Minority Report (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Peaches on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 04:05:00 PM EST
    I heard about this rating system on NPR while driving in and I could not help thing of Philp K Dick.

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 11:32:07 AM EST
    ...Here we will have androids (computers) determining if you are an electric sheep or a terrorist.

    It is reminiscent of Bladerunner (based upon the above title) and the search for illegal robots returning to earth and the "Void-Kamp" test used to determine if you are human or robot.

    Maybe the future arrived early.


    What we need.... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by kdog on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 04:43:43 PM EST
    is an automated govt. representative tracking system.  Give them a tyranny rating based on the findings.

    Terrorists don't scare me half as much as tyrants do.

    It's been done... in the future. (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 06:43:33 PM EST
    Worse yet is that for forty years you... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 11:02:51 AM EST
    ...could have a file you cannot see or contest the contents of, but other law enforcement agencies, banks, employers, and others will be able to see the contents and use the data to possible deny you a job, a security clearance for a job, a home loan, or a whole raft of unforeseeable consequences that operate to your detriment.

    It also repeats the basic mistake they mad with the illegal eavesdropping program: It collects so much info on so many people and analyzes the data, of which there is no guarantee that ANY of their "suspected terrorists" data is accurate, but by collecting the sheer massive amount of info will have them analyzing such hugh numbers of people it can be almost guaranteed that they will be unable to find a genuine terrorist "needle" in the database "haystack".

    With all the programs in place for years now, both this one on plane travelers and the illegal eavesdropping on citizens, actual terrorist prosecutions have dropped down below the pre-9/11/01 level.

    FEWER prosecutions than BEFORE 9/11. Tell me again the fairy tale that the bush maladministration is doing "EVERYTHING POSSIBLE" to protect America in this "War on Terra."

    And, please, Abu Gonzales, with all these draconian programs to invade our privacy and maintain dossiers on each of us, tell us WHY prosecutions have fallen so dramatically.

    Gosh, ya think maybe BS like this JUST DOESN'T WORK?

    Mornin' everybody.

    special list (1.00 / 1) (#29)
    by diogenes on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 01:29:21 PM EST
    The government is taking information in the public domain (e.g. what you eat on a public airplane)  and is trying to us it efficiently.  I bet the Israelis did this years ago for El Al.  I doubt that many Sunday School teachers from Kansas who order the halal meal for quality reasons are going to be thrown off planes.

    wrong again (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Sailor on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 04:53:01 PM EST
    The government is taking information in the public domain (e.g. what you eat on a public airplane)
    I'm a pretty good researcher and I couldn't find any public information about what identified individuals have ordered for their meals on airplanes.

    Just because you are willing to give up all of your rights doesn't mean you have the right to give up mine.

    I sure hope you comment on my site someday because it sounds like you live/work just outside DC in Maryland at a certain compound.


    no see, (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Jen M on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 06:04:48 PM EST
    Sailor, it works out

    President Bush said the terrorists hate us for our freedoms

    No freedoms, no hatred, no problem!


    well, that would explain ... (none / 0) (#32)
    by Sailor on Sun Dec 03, 2006 at 04:48:32 PM EST
    ... why there haven't been any AQ attacks on American siol since bush let 9/11 happen.

    Makes it much easier to supply... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Bill Arnett on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 01:54:04 PM EST
    ...warm bodies for the hugh prison camps Halliburton is/will be building out in the American deserts.

    "Ve haf your name on ze list! You will go mit us NOW!"

    Sometimes I think... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Edger on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 02:01:05 PM EST
    ...it's nearly time to got for a walk in the woods.

    And keep on walking.

    You get what you give (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 02:08:09 PM EST
    If you don't trust the people,
    you make them untrustworthy.


    OR.... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 03:48:16 PM EST
    light up a torch, pick up a pitchfork...and take the country back for those who love freedom, equality, and liberty.

    Like Jefferson advised us to when a govt. no longer serves its people.  Do you feel served?


    I feel like I've BEEN served. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Sailor on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 03:50:51 PM EST
    What if... (none / 0) (#8)
    by HK on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 04:21:46 PM EST
    I was wondering what would happen to this system of classification if everyone who flew ordered a Halal meal.  Everybody's score would be bumped up.  So a 'normal' score would be much higher than they were anticipating.  Would they have to increase the scale, like in Spinal Tap when they get amps that go up to 11?!

    Woops (none / 0) (#9)
    by skreddy on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 04:25:01 PM EST
    It's true that ordering a "special dietary needs" meal tends to get you better food, but I'm guessing that ordering the halal meal was, in retrospect, too clever by half.

    next thing you know (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Fri Dec 01, 2006 at 06:08:39 PM EST
    they'll be bringing back the late, and unlamented, House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC).

    This is America right????? (none / 0) (#23)
    by plumberboy on Sat Dec 02, 2006 at 03:33:54 AM EST

    I can't beleive this is going on in this nation.
    The people of this nation need to wake up and start voting out these politicians that agree with this CRAP !!!!!!!!!!!!