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.