2007/03/01

Data mining & warrantless wiretapping - same thing

Re: "Data mining returns in terror fight" Philadelphia Inquirer March 1

First off, there is every indication that mass data-mining of American citizens by the Bush Administration began long before 9-11. Second, there is no indication that it ever stopped. It was revealed in December 2005 that the NSA has been gathering private information without any kind or sort or variety of check or balance or supervision. Much is still not known about the Administration's warrantless wiretapping program, but President Bush has given American citizens no reason whatsoever to feel comfortable that he's engaged in anything less than massive data-mining.
The Bush Administration's latest proposal and their Total Information Awareness proposal back in 2002 both strike me as attempts to get an after-the-fact justification for actions taken in knowing violation of the Constitution and the law known as FISA, AKA the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
The most critical item to be determined though, has always been "Does it work?" Has there ever been any indication that data-mining would be successful at detecting "terrorist" activity if applied? The evidence from commercial market researchers is "No." Decades of research have shown that there is very little that can be learned about a person's product preferences by examining other data about that person. There's simply no way to tell from an analysis of a person's shopping habits whether she is going to purchase skim milk or 2% milk. There's simply no way to predict whether he will buy his socks at the local five & dime or whether he'll get them from an upscale outlet. Similarly, there is zero evidence that unlawful behavior can be predicted from an analysis of unrelated data.
Congress needs to demand a complete and total cessation to all data-mining by the Bush Administration and to start putting people on trial for having done any of it in the first place.

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