Orin Kerr over at the
Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Conspiracy (beware it's growing!) hasn't found evidence for Bill Safire's Big Brother fear in the Homeland Security Department bill:
Second, and more importantly, Safire's nightmarish scenario appears to have no basis in fact. The Total Information Awareness program is a proposal to create a database to "data mine" evidence the government has already legally collected, not to collect new evidence. The program would let evidence already collected by different parts of the government and found in the public domain to be assembled together and examined for clues about terrorist activity. In other words, TIA would not authorize the collection of evidence about your credit card purchases, magazine subscriptions, websites you visit, e-mails you send or receive, academic grades, bank deposits, or trips (much less all of these, as Safire claims). The framework of privacy laws that the government must comply with to collect evidence would remain unchanged.
As best I can tell, TIA is not a surveillance system, but the press has decided to cover it as if it were. Strange. Very strange.
Near the end of the Washington Times story
Kerr linked to it says TIA would require changing the Privacy Act of 1974. Even if the bill is passed with TIA unchanged, Safire's fears wouldn't happen.
Not only the press, but many, many webloggers jumped on this story. Last week, Safire's column was at the top of blogdex for three days. I don't remember any web page staying on top that long. I'm glad the story got some attention. Eternal vigilence is the price of liberty, but this was mild hysteria.
Posted by Sean Hackbarth in at 04:20 PM
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