9-11 and Privacy (715 words)
From the politicians, terrorism experts and law enforcement community, two messages came through loud and clear: 1) save as many lives as possible; 2) get the guys who did it.
Privacy vs. Public Safety
We all are at risk every day. Is it, therefore, not imperative for law enforcement to be able to track down every scrap of information about these suspects from every available source—including every imaginable database? I say yes.
What about the off-the-wall leads or phoned-in leads by mischief-makers?
Again, I say yes. But on a highly controlled basis under the following rules:
1. Law enforcement must get a blanket court order to get any information from any source—including private databases—on an individual who is believed to be a suspect.
2. The information and resultant dossiers are to be encrypted and housed in one place only.
3. The data must be kept absolutely secret, "owned" by an individual, released to a new "owner" on a need-to-know basis only, relinquished by the new "owner" and returned to the original "owner" when no longer needed.
4. Any leaks to anybody is automatically grounds for jail to the leaker. Not a slap on the wrist. Not being fired. The can. The reason: If a news story said, for example, the suspect ordered blue underwear from a specific catalog, it could wreck consumer confidence in that catalog's ability to maintain privacy and put the catalog out of business.
5. Once the subject is adjudged not relevant to the investigation, the entire dossier and all references to it are destroyed.
6. If the dossier is not destroyed in an expeditious manner, the data "owner" does jail time.
7. Anyone found to be on a fishing or general profiling expedition in the database goes to jail.
I think if this system were in place back in 1963-1964, the nightmare of my employer's son and his family would have been over much more quickly and they could have gone on with their lives without being publicly tainted.