Bush Administration's Data-Mining Programs Criticized

There is no evidence that the Bush administration's reliance on data-mining has made the nation safer, but plenty of evidence that the practice endangers our privacy and burdens those who are victimized by the government's inevitable mistakes.

The National Security Agency’s program for wiretapping terror suspects without warrants, the screening of suspicious airline passengers and the Pentagon’s ill-fated Total Information Awareness program, shut down by Congress in 2003 because of privacy concerns, have all relied on aspects of data mining.

But in a 352-page government study released on Tuesday, a committee of the National Research Council warned that successfully using these tools to deter terrorism “will be extremely difficult to achieve” because of legal, technological and logistical problems. It said a haphazard approach to using such tools threatened both Americans’ privacy rights and the country’s legitimate national security needs.

[more ...]

Even if we could trust the government not to misuse the information it collects (and we can't), we know the administration lacks the competence to use the information wisely. Instead, innocent people suffer because the government's systems for recording the information are unreliable.

The push to accumulate enormous amounts of information has also produced the risk of “a huge number of false leads” that could implicate people with no actual connections to terrorism, the committee said. “More data does not mean better data,” said William J. Perry, the former defense secretary who was co-chairman of the panel, with Charles M. Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering.

You can read more about the report in this press release.

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    TIA (none / 0) (#1)
    by wasabi on Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 12:45:53 PM EST
    I watched the first part of a 5 part series called "The Last Enemy" the BBC has on their Contemporary Masterpiece Theatre series.  
    Part 1 synopsis:
    Stephen Ezard returns to England to mourn the death of his brother Michael, an aid worker in Afghani refugee camps killed by a landmine. As Stephen tries to learn more about Michael's death, he falls in love with his brother's widow Yasim Anwar, becomes a pawn in a government technology surveillance scheme and gets targeted by rogue agent David Russell. Can Stephen take control of his life again and solve the growing mystery around Michael's death?

    The surveillance program is called TIA, and Stephen has access to the database and all kinds of wonderful information on every citizen which is available at the touch of a keystroke.  So far, TIA is nothing but viewed positively in the series.  I don't know what is in store for the rest of the series.
    You can watch it online.

    It's Amazing (none / 0) (#2)
    by CDN Ctzn on Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 06:10:37 PM EST
    how the whole civil liberties issue has remined untouched during this election season. That could be interpreted in at least two ways:

    1. It's not really an issue that we have to worry about.

    2. Neither candidate, or party for that matter, sees any problem with the steadily increasing erosion of our civil liberties.

    In either scenario, "we the people" lose.

    I guess it's true that "power obtained is seldom relinquished".

    The real casualties (none / 0) (#3)
    by Newt on Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 11:15:46 PM EST
    are the Democrats in Congress who have been phone and email tapped for years.  It's clear from their "behavior" the past year that the GOP has the goods on them.