Big Brother got slapped down when the TIA debacle received so much attention even congress had to say they were against it. So, they have decided to clone Big Brother fifty or so times. Tha makes it sooooo much better, doncha know.
Rights and What's Right
By Lady Liberty
Last weekend, I was invited in my Lady Liberty persona to attend a local property rights group fundraiser. Because I'd spent some time researching property rights advocacy groups on the Internet to add to my website resources pages, I had been able to give the group some advice in the past as to potential contacts for support and information. Now it seems some of the members wanted to meet me in person and to discuss political activism both on and off the Internet.
I was interested in their cause, of course, but was also curious as to how they thought I might be of more help to them. I accepted their kind invitation, and soon found myself enjoying an Oktoberfest celebration complete with beer, brats, and men wearing lederhosen (yes, really). As I was introduced to more and more people, I found that virtually every handshake prompted the same initial question from the people I met. Everyone wanted to know what had made me become a political activist. After some thought, I had to say that I imagine I became an activist for the same reason that most people do: I saw something wrong, and determined to change it.
My first political involvement came some years ago when I heard that Congress was voting on something in which I had a strong interest. I read that it was possible the House would cut funding for a particular program, and I said to myself, "But that's just not right!" I wrote to my Representative, he ended up voting the way I'd asked him to, and the seed was sown (frankly, I don't doubt he would have voted "my" way with or without my letter, but the thought I might have made some small difference was both inspiring and empowering).
In time, I landed a job in the media that necessitated I pay close attention to current events. The more attention I paid, the more often I found myself saying, "Wait a minute...that's just not right!" The number of letters I wrote began to increase in frequency as well as range of topics. But it was after I constructed my own website - originally conceived simply to be an educational vehicle for students and adults alike - that I truly became an activist. You see, one day while I was typing comments having to do with a news item, I realized something that really shook me. I was working very hard to choose just the right words because I didn't want to get myself in trouble, and it suddenly struck me: There I was, pointing at the First Amendment and telling people to take full advantage of it, and I was afraid to do so myself! You can imagine the next words out of my mouth: That's just not right! Lady Liberty had been born months earlier, but that's the day she truly came alive.
Those of us who pay close attention to what's going on in the halls of government power this days know that there are plenty of things going on that just aren't right. But there aren't too many that are more wrong than MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange). Remember the Pentagon's proposed Total Information Awareness (later briefly known as Terrorism Information Awarness) program? When Americans found out that the massive database would include vast amounts of private data on every citizen, the outcry was substantial. Congress took action to deny funding for the program and prohibit the development of similar programs. Retired Admiral John Poindexter, who championed TIA, resigned in disgrace. But now we have MATRIX which, as a friend of mine blurted out when I told him about the program, is essentially TIA reloaded.
Though its goals are identical to those of TIA, MATRIX is different in several very important ways. First, the data files and computer algorithms are owned by a private company (one Associated Press article [http://truthout.org/docs_03/092603I.shtml
] sniped that the government is encouraged by that fact because it means the government isn't held to standards demanded by the 1974 Privacy Act if it doesn't own the files). Secondly, it will contain even more data points [http://www.refuseandresist.org/polic...t.php?aid=1085
] than TIA was prepared to incorporate. Everything from criminal and arrest records to marriage and divorce records, driver's license and vehicle registration information, Social Security numbers, credit histories, and more will be included in the available files. Yes, I know. That's just not right!
But government officials at varying levels love the idea of MATRIX. According to the published Program Objectives [http://www.iir.com/matrix/objectives_1.htm
], authorities will be able to use the database to "integrate disparate data from many types of Web-enabled storage systems to identify, develop, and analyze terrorist activity and other crimes". MATRIX is already up and running on a limited basis in the state of Florida, and law enforcement officials there are enthusiastic [http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/0903/24matrix.html
], saying the program is "nimble and exhaustive." The fact that MATRIX cross-references driving records and police files with "billions of pieces of public ad private data, including credit and property records" is probably a big timesaver for investigating officers. But where's the warrant? Where's the suspicion? A spokesman for the Center for Democracy and Technology says MATRIX will simply make "fishing expeditions [by law enforcement] so much more convenient [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp...nguage=printer
]." And it's certain that such fishing expeditions just aren't right!
MATRIX supporters say the data will be kept secure, and that only "authorized personnel" will be permitted access. But there's already been concern expressed [http://www.floridatoday.com/
!NEWSROOM/opedstory1027WMATRIX.htm] over the fact that the company is owned by a "former drug smuggler turned informant" as well as an incident of "misuse" of MATRIX data that caused one authorized person to be fired from his job with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Now there are rumors that among the "authorized personnel" may be CIA agents. Compound that with the likelihood that MATRIX will contain information including political leanings, and MATRIX goes far beyond "just not right" and well into the realm of the truly horrifying.
At the present time, MATRIX is active in Florida and is being tested in several other states [http://www.iir.com/matrix/
]. Among those other states up until last week was the state of Georgia. But the Governor of Georgia has since withdrawn the state's participation [http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/33540.html
] saying that criminal information may very well be "relevant to the crime fighting purpose of the pilot project, but personal information of law-abiding citizens is not." And the MATRIX program is ostensibly for crime-fighting purposes. According to the MATRIX Overview [http://www.iir.com/matrix/overview.htm
] web page, the concept behind the program is merely to "increase and enhance the exchange of terrorism and other criminal activity information" between law enforcement agencies. But if that's true, then why is MATRIX including information on all Americans, not just criminals? And why does that information cover a wide range of personal and private data that has nothing to do with criminal activity? Something's just not right, here.
Both the Legal Reader [http://www.legalreader.com/archives/001336.html
] and the Southeastern Legal Foundation [http://southeasternlegal.org/default...=1&release=314
] have spoken out against any expansion of MATRIX, but the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security like the idea well enough that they've given $12 million in federal funding [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp...nguage=printer
] to expand MATRIX into a multistate pilot project. Meanwhile, the project remains a private venture held on private premises, but guarded by state police and funded by federal monies. As one privacy expert [http://truthout.org/docs_03/092603I.shtml
] said, "That's very interesting." I'd say it differently. I'd say that can't be right.
Perhaps you've never been much of an activist in the past. Maybe you've written a letter or two, but in the main have been content with the status quo. Well, those kinder, gentler days may be past. You've heard some of the facts. Now get more information about MATRIX [http://www.ladylibrty.com/matrix.html
]. If you're not already muttering to yourself, you will be by the time you're finished learning about MATRIX. And I know just exactly what you'll be saying: That's just not right!
The folks supporting MATRIX had best watch out. After all, look what noticing something was "just not right" did to me!
P.S. In the end, the property rights group members got from me exactly what they wanted at their fundraiser. It wasn't more information and it wasn't money or publicity. It was encouragement. As it turns out, Lady Liberty is a pretty good cheerleader, and Oktoberfest was...festive. (For the record, she did not don lederhosen. That just wouldn't have been right.)
Lady Liberty is a pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House [http://www.ladylibrty.com
] . E-mail Lady Liberty at email@example.com
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