December 20, 2004 | By Donna Wentworth

9/11 Legislation Launches Misguided Data-Mining and Domestic Surveillance Schemes

On Friday President Bush signed into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA; PDF), launching several flawed "security" schemes that EFF has long opposed. The media has focused on turf wars between the intelligence and defense communities, but the real story is how IRTPA trades basic rights for the illusion of security. For instance:

~ Section 1016 - a.k.a. "TIA II" ~

A clause authorizing the creation of a massive "Information Sharing Environment" (ISE) to link "all appropriate Federal, State, local, and tribal entities, and the private sector."

This vast network links the information in public and private databases, which poses the same kind of threat to our privacy and freedom that the notorious Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program did. Yet the IRTPA contains no meaningful safeguards against unchecked data mining other than directing the President to issue guidelines. It also includes a definition of "terrorist information" that is frighteningly broad.

~ Section 4012 and Sections 7201-7220 - a.k.a. "CAPPS III" ~

A number of provisions that provide the statutory basis for "Secure Flight," the government's third try at a controversial passenger-screening system that has consistently failed to pass muster for protecting passenger privacy.

The basic concept: the government will force commercial air carriers to hand over your private travel information and compare it with a "consolidated and integrated terrorist watchlist." It will also establish a massive "counterterrorist travel intelligence" infrastructure that calls for travel data mining ("recognition of travel patterns, tactics, and behavior exhibited by terrorists").

It's not clear how the government would use the travel patterns of millions of Americans to catch the small number of individuals worldwide who are planning terrorist attacks. In fact, this approach has been thoroughly debunked by security experts. What is clear is that the system will create fertile ground for constitutional violations and the abuse of private information. The latest Privacy Act notice on Secure Flight shows that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) still doesn't have a plan for how long the government will keep your private information, nor has it mapped out adequate procedures for correcting your "file" if you are wrongly flagged as a terrorist.

~ Section 6001 - a.k.a. "PATRIOT III" ~

Straight from the infamous "PATRIOT II" draft legislation leaked to the public last year comes a provision that allows the government to use secret foreign intelligence warrants and wiretap orders against people unconnected to any international terrorist group or foreign nation. This represents yet another step in the ongoing destruction of even the most basic legal protections for those the government suspects are terrorists.

~ Sections 7208-7220 - a.k.a. "Papers, Please" ~

Just as EFF, the ACLU, and a number of other civil liberties groups feared, IRTPA creates the basis for a de facto national ID system using biometrics. Driven by misguided political consensus, the law calls for a "global standard of identification" and minimum national standards for birth certificates, driver's licenses and state ID cards, and social security cards and numbers. It also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish new standards for ID for domestic air travelers.

Identification is not security. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission report revealed that a critical stumbling block in identifying foreign terrorists is the inability to evaluate *foreign* information and records. Yet we are placing disproportionate emphasis on pervasive domestic surveillance, opening the door to a standardized "internal passport" -- the hallmark of a totalitarian regime.

If you care about preserving your privacy and basic consitutional freedoms, help us fight the good fight by joining EFF today.


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