Bush administration officials oppose an effort in Congress under the USA Patriot Act to force the government to disclose its use of data-mining techniques in tracking suspects in terrorism cases, the New York Times reports. The House last week approved such a provision. The Justice Department opposed the amendment because it would add to the list of “countless reports” required by Congress and would take time away from more critical law enforcement activities.
Government use of vast public and private databases to mine for leads has produced damaging episodes for the Bush administration. The Total Information Awareness system developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects and the Capps program of the Department of Homeland Security for screening airline passengers were scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties. Justice Department officials were pleased that the House decided to reauthorize the Patriot Act and to leave intact most of its counterterrorism powers.