PolySciFi Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Viva Las Vegas!

Bruce Schneier has a very good essay up about the FBI's use of National Security Letters to gather an incredible amount of data on everyone who spent the 2003 holiday season in Las Vegas. Where did the data go and what was done with it? Who knows? It used to be FBI policy to destroy data after it was used, but Ashcroft rescinded that policy in 2003. It's still sitting in a database somewhere, although it was meant to help investigate a terrorist attack in Las Vegas in 2003 that never happened. Schneier offers the following four principles to govern police power in these matters, and I think he's right on:
The first is oversight: In order to obtain personal information, the police should be required to show probable cause, and convince a judge to issue a warrant for the specific information needed. Second, minimization: The police should only get the specific information they need, and not any more. Nor should they be allowed to collect large blocks of information in order to go on "fishing expeditions," looking for suspicious behavior. The third is transparency: The public should know, if not immediately then eventually, what information the police are getting and how it is being used. And fourth, destruction. Any data the police obtains should be destroyed immediately after its court-authorized purpose is achieved. The police should not be able to hold on to it, just in case it might become useful at some future date.
For the most part, conversations about Bush's supreme court nominations focus on the typical wedge issues (and by "typical wedge issues," I mean All-Roe-All-The-Time). It's worth noting at this point that both Roberts and Alito seem to pretty consistently support further increasing the power of the executive branch. I think it's powerful enough already.


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