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Jim Harper: What was in the water at Markle Foundation task force meetings?

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: [Politech] Open letter on security, civil liberties from 
Farber, Dyson, Lemmey [priv]
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2004 11:00:22 -0400
From: Jim Harper - Privacilla.org <jim.harper@privacilla.org>
Reply-To: <jim.harper@privacilla.org>
Organization: Privacilla.org
To: 'Declan McCullagh' <declan@well.com>


I want to know what was in the water at the meetings of this Markle
Foundation Task Force.  It seems that every participant came out of
there intoning about 1) the need for this 'trusted' information network;
and 2) the suitability of various rules and boards for controlling a new
government database (albeit a networked one) which will sweep in
potentially unlimited data about all Americans' activities.

Let's talk about how much this thing is like Total Information
Awareness.  Section 206 of the Senate-passed intelligence reform bill
makes a few casual references to use of private-sector data in this
information 'environment'. (An amendment changed the name of this
project from "network" to "environment" - to further obscure what's
going on, to bring on support from confused greens, or both.)

If you want to know what is actually envisioned, look at the Markle Task
Force's surveillance roadmap at Appendix H
http://www.markletaskforce.org/reports/Report2_Part3.pdf (page 80 of the
.pdf / 150 of the document itself): divorce papers, calling card logs,
page and text messages, credit card applications, academic records,
insurance policies and claims, Web site search histories, licenses of
every kind, cable viewing records, prescriptions.  I'm just
cherry-picking.  The list goes on and on.

And here are Markle-produced matrices of the laws that need amending so
the government surveillance system can lawfully get full access to the
data.  That is, if the "national security letter" provision of the
Patriot Act doesn't survive.

So let's call a spade a spade.  This is Total Information Awareness,
rebranded, with the corners smoothed down.

1) Would it work?/Do we need it? That's beyond the pay-grade of all but
a seer.  I strongly believe that it would cost too much in civil
liberties, privacy, autonomy, and everything else we take so much pride
in enjoying as Americans.

These surveillance programs distract from the real efforts that will
suppress terror: human intelligence, hardening infrastructure against
likely tools and methods of attack, and the promotion of liberty,
literacy, and commerce in countries where terrorist ideologies have
taken root.

2) 'Oh, but there are safeguards.' This is what really galls me.

As a student of governments and government behavior, I will tell you
what the authors of this open letter apparently don't get: Bureaucracies
seek to maximize their budgets, and do so by maximizing their power and

In translation: rules, protocols, and oversight boards will be
impediments to the institutional interests of those operating this
surveillance system, including not only the law enforcement/national
security bureaucrats, but also the growing number of companies in the
surveillance-industrial complex.  They will work quietly and diligently
over years to dismantle the limits placed on them, making a mockery of
the 'careful balance' supposedly struck by the Markle Surveillance

If this goes forward, it will be a clear victory for the surveillance
state and a clear loss for freedom. I don't doubt the good faith of the
authors of this open letter. I doubt their savvy.

Where the heck in the Fourth Amendment does it say "General warrants
shall issue if the Markle Foundation Task Force says it's OK"? That's
where this thing goes if it passes.


Jim Harper
Director of Information Policy Studies
The Cato Institute

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Oct 14, 2004

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