Lawmakers renew push for data-mining law

Lawmakers renew push for data-mining law

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Russell Feingold are urging fellow lawmakers to support a bill that would require agencies to report to Congress on data-mining technologies used for homeland security purposes.

Feingold introduced the Data-Mining Reporting Act of 2003 last summer, but it stalled in the Judiciary Committee. Now, Feingold (D-Wis.) and Leahy (D-Vt.) are making a renewed push in a letter to fellow senators to gather support for the bill, S 1544.

The bill is focused on how agencies use data-mining techniques for homeland security and whether any privacy rights could be abridged.

'This bill is about shedding a little sunshine on government data-mining programs,' Leahy said. 'This bill does not end any existing data-mining project or seek to regulate data mining.'

Agencies would be required to submit a report to Congress 90 days after the bill became law and then annually on activities 'used to find a pattern indicating terrorist or other criminal activity and how these programs implicate the civil liberties and privacy of all Americans.'

When he introduced the bill, Feingold noted that Congress too often finds out about data-mining programs after agencies have spent millions of dollars testing and using the technology, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Terrorism Information Awareness program. He called data mining an 'untested and controversial intelligence procedure.'

In their letter to lawmakers, the pair said agencies' reports would let Congress conduct a thorough review of the costs and benefits of data mining on a program-by-program basis.

'Simply put, this bill ensures that Congress is able to fulfill its oversight responsibilities,' they said.

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