The Justice Department is putting more and more federal investigative records at the disposal of state and local police, and civil libertarians are not happy about it.
A program called "OneDOJ" has been under development for about 18 months and now contains approximately 1 million case records, including incident reports and interrogation summaries from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies, according to a Washington Post story citing Justice Department officials. It is expected to triple in size in the next three years. Pilot projects have been conducted in Seattle, San Diego and other areas, and more are planned "immediately" in an additional 15 regions, the story said.
"The goal is that all of U.S. law enforcement will be able to look at each other's records to solve cases and protect U.S. citizens," Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty told the Post. "With OneDOJ, we will essentially hook them up to a pipe that will take them into its records."
What has critics up in arms is not just the scope of the record sharing, but the fact that the records describe criminal suspects or targets--that is, people who have not been convicted or may not even have been formally charged.
"Raw police files or FBI reports can never be verified and can never be corrected," Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union said in the newspaper story, which appeared Tuesday.
Early response from the blogosphere tended to side with the privacy worrywarts. Blogma's first reaction was to the name of the program, which sounds eerily like the malevolent inscription from The Lord of the Rings.
Blog community response:
"I have plenty of concerns about police abuse, especially at the local level where barely trained semi-educated policemen have enormous discretionary power in the use of force. It seems obvious, though, that the ability to access data across state lines provides far more benefit than potential harm.."
--Outside the Beltway
"This is just another example of how the Administration's excuse of a war on terror affects not those abroad, but those of us at home. It won't make us safer, only less free."
"We're not just talking about your driving record here. The amount of data that is going to be made to the local yocal sheriff is way beyond any he could need. Even worse, there is no way to double check if the data is accurate or fix it, if it's not."
--OneCrankyDom on Daily Kos
"The Justice Department continues doing all the difficult legwork of organizing your life, including minor infractions, personal grooming habits, political beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. ... This databse will facilitate the arrest and incarceration of certain unwanted elements including political dissidents, social deviants, the left-handed, the loud, the flamboyant, etc."