Monday, December 10, 2012

More Big Brother data sharing comes to Congress

As if it weren’t hard enough to maintain privacy in this nation. Now along comes a new bill from Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Rep. David Reichert, also D-Wash., that will ratchet up information sharing among governments and security forces nationwide.

The congressmen say the bill is aimed at improving communication among law enforcement, and tout it as a win-win for police and citizens. But like so much that hails from Washington, that’s bureaucratic speak. Rep. Reichert himself gives a hint to the true intent of the bill in his own statement, Nov. 29, posted on Smith’s congressional website.

“As a former cop and sheriff, I know that the more information law enforcement agents have, the better they can do their jobs,” said Reichert, the former Sheriff of King County who served 33 years in law enforcement. 

While more information for law enforcement may be a boon for law enforcement officials, it is most certainly not always a likewise benefit – or even welcome advance – for civil libertarians, or constitutionalists, or anyone with concerns about the onslaught of police-type regulatory controls that have been exerted by local, state and federal authorities in the past decade or two. So that being said – here’s  a quick snapshot of H.R. 6618, the Department of Justice Global Advisory Committee Authorization Act of 2012.

First, the committee makes recommendations to the Attorney General of the United States ways “to improve the administration of justice and protect the public by promoting practices and technologies for database interoperability and the secure sharing of justice and public safety information between local, state and tribal governments and the federal government,” the bill reads. But in plain language: Here comes another massive data-sharing program for law enforcement.

Second, the attorney general takes these recommendations and identifies “police and technical barriers to effective information sharing,” and narrows the list to a report of best practices and suggestions for Congress to consider. In plain language again: Here comes another massive data-sharing program for law enforcement.

It’s all in the name of security, the bill sponsors say. But at what point does Big Brother become too big?

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