Senators seek to quash HSD data mining

Three senators want a moratorium on data mining activities by the Defense and Homeland Security departments until Congress can review the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Total Information Awareness program.

'The untested and controversial procedure known as data mining is capable of maintaining extensive files containing both public and private records on each and every American,' Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said in a statement about S 188, the Data Mining Moratorium Act of 2003. He called unchecked data mining 'a dangerous step that threatens one of the values we are fighting for'freedom. The administration has a heavy burden of proof that such extreme measures are necessary.'

Sens. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also sponsored S 188.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Privacy Information Center and Free Congress Foundation announced their support for the bill.

The administration responded indirectly during Homeland Security secretary-designate Tom Ridge's nomination hearing today. Ridge said in an opening statement that 'any new data mining techniques or programs to enhance information sharing and collecting must and will respect the civil rights and civil liberties guaranteed to the American people under the Constitution.' Ridge emphasized that any new HSD technologies and programs would not lead to discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity.

Feingold said the government plans to spend more than $137 million to develop data mining systems such as Total Information Awareness during fiscal 2003. S 188 would require agencies to report within 90 days after its enactment any data mining systems they are developing or using, and the steps taken to protect individual privacy.

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