Critics Worry About Federal-Local File Sharing

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Civil libertarians are voicing concerns over a new system giving local police in New York and Vermont instant access to federal files on terrorism, says the Associated Press. Officials insist that civil liberties will be protected, but critics of the pilot program say it poses an “enormous risk” of arrest and detention of people without cause. “It’s a very dangerous assumption that just because the information is in the system, it’s right,” said Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “In the drive to collect data and share it, there has been a neglect of the safeguards that are absolutely essential to protect us from the misuse of information.”

The system will allow state and local police to check 12 databases maintained by federal agencies, and provide officers with a direct line to federal agents to report suspicious activities. If a police officer has reason to believe a person might be involved in terror-related activities, state officials with security clearance will share data with their counterparts at federal agencies in Washington. The procedure is designed to keep sensitive information from becoming public. Jonathan Gradess of the New York State Defenders Association is worried the flow of information will add unsubstantiated reports to federal databases. “The major flaw in the program rests on its major purpose,” Gradess said. “Its major purpose is to put every scrap of information into the system on the assumption that it may somehow be relevant.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4661-2004May31.html

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