Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sidelining Homeland Security's privacy chief

This is bordering on the bizarre, but it fits the pattern the Bush administration has followed. Said pattern is to, when filling an administrative post, to put someone in that post who has opinions and work history opposite to the posts intent.

For example, Opposing the nomination of Bolton as U.N. Ambassador, they are proposing as the U.N. Ambassador a man who famously criticizes the U.N. and openly questions whether it ought to exist.

Sidelining Homeland Security's privacy chief (April 11, 2005, 4:00 AM PT, By Declan McCullagh, CNET.COM) A part of the Department of Homeland Security is a privacy officer (Nuala O'Connor Kelly) charged with: "impressive-sounding tasks such as 'assuring' that new technologies do not erode privacy and 'evaluating' the impact of new government programs". Despite being officially hobbled by the lack of real power given to the job, Ms. Kelly also has a strange choice in deputies.

Homeland Security panel picks controversial chief (Published: April 6, 2005, 5:10 PM PDT, By Declan McCullagh, Staff Writer, CNET

The Department of Homeland Security's privacy board chose as its chairman Paul Rosenzweig, a conservative lawyer best known in technology circles for his defense of the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project. Bowing to privacy concerns, Congress pulled the plug on the program two years ago.
In case you don't know what the TIA is, here's a little paper I researched and wrote a couple years ago. The idea is for the government intelligence agencies (or agency) to snoop on practically everything that happens. They would program computers to automate the snooping. The computers would be empowered with automated language translation, so that documents and voice conversations can be automagically translated to English. They would have software that looks for patterns, dangerous patterns presumably, but ones they deem worthy of tracking. The computers would recognize certain events, and when triggered it would send an alert message to a human intelligence officer. There's a lot more.

The project was officially shut down a couple years ago when the public became a little too informed about its existance and purpose. But the various aspects of the program have been quietly slipping into government programs, so that piece by piece "they" are building it anyway, regardless of the public qualms about invasion of privacy by the government.

And so now we learn that one of the participants in that project is now in charge of "enforcing" privacy.


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