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4. Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In

Sources: Information Management Journal, Mar/Apr 2004, Title: “PATRIOT Act’s Reach Expanded Despite Part Being Struck Down,” Author: Nikki Swartz; LiP Magazine, Winter 2004, Title: “Grave New World,” Author: Anna Samson Miranda; Capitol Hill Blue, June 7, 2004, Title: “Where Big Brother Snoops on Americans 24/7,” Authors: Teresa Hampton and Doug Thompson
Faculty Evaluator: John Steiner, Ph. D.
Student Researcher: Sandy Brown, Michelle Jesolva

“While the evening news rolled footage of Saddam being checked for head lice, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 was quietly signed into law.”1

On December 13, 2003, President George W. Bush, with little fanfare and no mainstream media coverage, signed into law the controversial Intelligence Authorization Act while most of America toasted the victory of U.S. forces in Iraq and Saddam’s capture. None of the corporate press covered the signing of this legislation, which increases the funding for intelligence agencies, dramatically expands the definition of surveillable financial institutions, and authorizes the FBI to acquire private records of those individuals suspected of criminal activity without a judicial review. American civil liberties are once again under attack.

History has provided precedent for such actions. Throughout the 1990s, erosions of these protections were taking place. As part of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism bill adopted in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Justice Department was required to publish statistics going back to 1990 on threats or actual crimes against federal, state and local employees and their immediate families when the wrongdoing related to the workers’ official duties. The numbers were then to be kept up to date with an annual report.2 Members of congress, concerned with the threat this type of legislation posed to American civil liberties, were able to strike down much of what the bill proposed, including modified requirements regarding wiretap regulations.

The “atmosphere of fear” generated by recent terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic, provides administrations the support necessary to adopt stringent new legislation. In response to the September 11 attacks, new agencies, programs and bureaucracies have been created. The Total Information Office is a branch of the United States Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It has a mission to “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness.”3 Another intelligence gathering governmental agency, The Information Awareness Office, has a mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized location for easy perusal by the United States government. Information mining has become the business of government.

In November 2002, the New York Times reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was developing a tracking system called “Total Information Awareness” (TIA), which was intended to detect terrorists through analyzing troves of information. The system, developed under the direction of John Poindexter, then-director of DARPA’s Information Awareness Office, was envisioned to give law enforcement access to private data without suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant.4 The “Total Information Awareness” program’s name was changed to “Terrorist Information Awareness” on May 20, 2003 ostensibly to clarify the program’s intent to gather information on presumed terrorists rather than compile dossiers on U.S. citizens.

Despite this name change, a Senate Defense Appropriations bill passed unanimously on July 18, 2003, expressly denying any funding to Terrorist Information Awareness research. In response, the Pentagon proposed The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, or MATRIX, a program devised by longtime Bush family friend Hank Asher as a pilot effort to increase and enhance the exchange of sensitive terrorism and other criminal activity information between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The MATRIX, as devised by the Pentagon, is a State run information generating tool, thereby circumventing congress’ concern regarding the appropriation of federal funds for the development of this controversial database. Although most states have refused to adopt these Orwellian strategies, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Florida have all jumped on the TIA band wagon.

Yet, somehow, after the apparent successful dismantling of TIA, expressed concern by Representatives Mark Udall of Colorado, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Ron Paul of Texas and Dennis Moore of Kansas, and heightened public awareness of the MATRIX, the Intelligence Authorization Act was signed into law December 13, 2003.5

On Thursday, November 20, 2003 Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum stated that, “The Republican Leadership inserted a controversial provision in the FY04 Intelligence Authorization Report that will expand the already far-reaching USA Patriot Act, threatening to further erode our cherished civil liberties. This provision gives the FBI power to demand financial and other records, without a judge’s approval, from post offices, real estate agents, car dealers, travel agents, pawnbrokers and many other businesses. This provision was included with little or no public debate, including no consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction. It came as a surprise to most Members of this body.”6

According to LiP Magazine, “Governmental and law-enforcement agencies and MATRIX contractors across the nation will gain extensive and unprecedented access to financial records, medical records, court records, voter registration, travel history, group and religious affiliations, names and addresses of family members, purchases made and books read.”7

Peter Jennings, in an ABC original report, explored the commercial applications of this accumulated information. Journalist and author Peter O’Harrow, who collaborated with ABC News on the broadcast “Peter Jennings Reporting: No Place to Hide,” states “…marketers-and now, perhaps government investigators-can study what people are likely to do, what kind of attitudes they have, what they buy at the grocery store.”8 Although this program aired on prime-time mainstream television, there was no mention of the potential for misuse of this personal information network or of the controversy surrounding the issues of privacy and civil liberties violations concerning citizens and civil servants alike. Again, the sharing of this kind of personal information is not without precedent.

On November 12, 1999, Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which permits financial institutions to share personal customer information with affiliates within the holding company. The Intelligence Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2004 expands the definition of a surveillable financial institution to include real estate agencies, insurance companies, travel agencies, Internet service providers, post offices, casinos and other businesses as well. Due to massive corporate mergers and the acquisition of reams of newly acquired information, personal consumer data has been made readily available to any agency interested in obtaining it, both commercial and governmental.

With the application of emerging new technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification chips or RFIDs, small individualized computer chips capable of communicating with a receiving computer, consumer behavior can literally be tracked from the point of purchase to the kitchen cupboard, and can be monitored by all interested parties.

Update by Anna Miranda: The United States is at risk of turning into a full-fledged surveillance society. The tremendous explosion in surveillance-enabling technologies, combined with the ongoing weakening in legal restraints that protect our privacy mean that we are drifting toward a surveillance society. The good news is that it can be stopped. Unfortunately, right now the big picture is grim.-ACLU9

The PATRIOT Act

Fifteen ‘sunset’ provisions in the PATRIOT Act are set to expire at the end of 2005. One amendment, the “library provision” went before Congress in June. Despite President Bush’s threat to veto, lawmakers, including 38 Republicans, voted 238 to 187 to overturn the provision, which previously allowed law enforcement officials to request and obtain information from libraries without obtaining a search warrant. Although inspectors still have the “right” to search library records, they must get a judge’s approval first.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed Congress in April that this provision has never been used to acquire information, although the American Library Association recently reported that over 200 requests for information were submitted since the PATRIOT Act was signed into law in October 2001.

The overturning of the library provision has been seen as a small victory in the fight to reclaim privacy rights. Rep. Saunders, who was responsible for almost successfully having the provision repealed last year, commented that “conservative groups have been joining progressive organizations to call for changes.”10

The MATRIX

The fight to the right for privacy continues to wage on with more successes, as the MATRIX program was officially shut down on April 15, 2005. The program, which consisted of 13 states-and only had four states remaining prior to its closure, received $12 million in funding from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. By utilizing a system called FACTS (Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution), law enforcement officials from participating states were able to share information with one another and utilized this program as an investigative tool to help solve and prevent crimes. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, “Between July 2003 and April 2005, there have been 1,866,202 queries to the FACTS application.”11 However, of these queries, only 2.6 percent involved terrorism or national security.

Although the MATRIX has been shut down, Florida law enforcement officials are pursuing continuing the program and rebuilding it. Officials have sent out a call for information from vendors beginning a competitive bidding process.

RFID Technology and the REAL ID Act

On May 10, 2005, President Bush secretly signed into law the REAL ID Act, requiring states within the next three years to issue federally approved electronic identification cards. Attached as an amendment to an emergency spending bill funding troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the REAL ID Act passed without the scrutiny and debate of Congress.

One of the main concerns of the electronic identification card is identity theft. The Act mandates the cards to have anti-counterfeiting measures, such as an electronically readable magnetic strip or RFID chip. Privacy advocates argue that RFID chips can be read from “unauthorized” scanners allowing third parties or the general public to gather and/or steal private information about an individual. Amidst growing concerns about identity theft, the REAL ID Act has given no consideration to this drawback.

Other privacy concerns regarding the electronic identification card is the use of information by third parties once they’ve scanned the cards and accessed the information. At this time, the Act does not specify what can be done with the information. A company or organization scanning your identification card could potentially sell your personal information if strict guidelines on what to do with the information are not mandated.

Inability to conform over the next three years will leave citizens and residents of the United States paralyzed. Identification cards that do not meet the federally mandated standards will not be accepted as identification for travel, opening a bank account, receiving social security checks, or participating in government benefits, among other things.

Notes

1. LiP Magazine. http://www.lipmagazine.org/.
2. The Washington Post December 01, 1997, Final Edition.
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Information_Awareness.
4. Electronic Privacy Information Center http://www.epic.org/privacy/profiling/tia/. Information Awareness Office, See HR 2417.
5. Ibid.
6. Congressional Record: November 22,2003 pg.E2399.
http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2003_cr/h112203.html.
7. LiP Magazine. http://www.lipmagazine.org/.
8. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Primetime/story.
9. http://www.aclu.org/Privacy/PrivacyMain.cfm.
10. http://bernie.house.gov/documents/articles/20050406114413.asp.
11. http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/press_releases/20050415_matrix_project.html.

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