Just Another Guy with Opinions

Freedoms under Attack

Posted by shadmia on December 2, 2006

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Newt Gingrich recently gave a speech saying: the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Keith Olbermann took exception to the Gingrich Speech in this video clip:

This comes shortly after President Bush signed into law a bill passed by the 109th Congress that severely curtailed Habeas Corpus.

Privacy has also taken a huge hit since the terrorist attack of 9/11/01. Millions of Americans have had their telephone conversations recorded, without their knowledge, under the government’s wire tapping program. Just recently the Department of Homeland Security also admitted that they have been assigning scores, rating the risk that travelers are either terrorists or criminals. This applies to every person (American or visitor) entering or leaving the US by air sea or land. This program is called the Automated Targeting System or ATS.

The scores are based on ATS’ analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

Apparently Homeland Security is very proud of this program and the data that has been collected on millions of people:

The Homeland Security Department called the program “one of the most advanced targeting systems in the world” and said the nation’s ability to spot criminals and other security threats “would be critically impaired without access to this data.”

The few civil liberties lawyers and even law enforcement officials who knew of this program were led to believe that it would only be used to screen cargo. After realizing the full scope of ATS, David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said:

“It’s probably the most invasive system the government has yet deployed in terms of the number of people affected.”

“Some individuals will be denied the right to travel and many the right to travel free of unwarranted interference.”

Sobel also raises the possibility that faulty risk assessments could cost innocent people jobs in shipping or travel, government contracts, licenses or other benefits.

The government says some or all of the ATS data about an individual may be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring decisions and in granting licenses, security clearances, contracts or other benefits. In some cases, the data may be shared with courts, Congress and even private contractors.

Even though a number of agencies can request this data on individuals, if you are the subject of an unfavorable risk assessment there is no recourse to have it changed. You are not allowed to see the file and you will not be told how and with what information your score was determined.

“Everybody else can see it, but you can’t,” Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer who teaches at Cornell Law school, said in an interview.

All risk assessments will be saved by Homeland Security for a period of 40 years.

The department says that 87 million people a year enter the country by air and 309 million enter by land or sea.

It seems as if some politicians are not happy with the US Constitution and are trying to whittle away at the protections and freedoms that have been enshrined in this document by our Founding Fathers. Have the terrorists won? Have they made us so afraid of them that we are willing to tamper with the document that defines us as a nation?

One Response to “Freedoms under Attack”

  1. Abi said

    Awesome, man

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