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LAW ENFORCEMENT TO GAIN YET MORE NEW POWERS
Posted 13 Jun 2002 07:31:43 UTC

We've known for a long time that "homeland security" means bad news for civil liberties. Now, a new bill is going to ask law enforcement to use technology make it even worse.

The "Homeland Security Information Sharing Act", bill number HR 4598, was reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on Monday and is on Thursday's agenda for the full Judiciary Committee. This bill would require the government to develop technologies which allow the FBI, CIA, and Office of Homeland Security to share "Homeland Security Information" with local police departments.

While seemingly innocuous, this Act leads to unpredictable consequences for those who the government does not like. When taken in the context of the FBI's recent reorganization (which especially targets hackers and allows the FBI to investigate law-abiding political groups) and with the vaguely defined notion of "Homeland Security Information," it begins to seem almost inevitable that this bill will lead to sharing of information not only about al-Queda but about far less threatening entities.

This bill enjoys wide political support: its 32 cosponsors run the political spectrum from the liberal Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank to the conservative Bob Barr of Georgia. President Bush has endorsed the bill, and it is perhaps no surprise that, as the Washington Post notes, the CIA and the Office of Homeland Security helped write the bill.

Hopefully, we're over-reacting here, and law enforcement's new powers will only be used against "real" terrorists. But, given the history of these agencies, and especially their actions since September 11th, we have every reason to be on watch.

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