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Security for the people, by the people

In response to the Jan. 17 Perspectives column by Shane Robison, "IT glitches in homeland security":

Shane Robison points out that current technology would, if we choose, allow us to share data that is critical to some important means of increasing our security. Some flaws arise with the argument he presents.

First, while he is right concerning the fact that most technical and infrastructure challenges are not so insurmountable as they may seem, there are other aspects of the case he did not address. Most databases today contain data that has not been classified--especially in terms of its sensitivity and the implications of either releasing it or of correlating it with other data. Even if the data were classified, a further barrier remains. No rules or laws have been set (short of the sweeping actions of the USA Patriot Act, which has inherent conflicts with other legislation and potentially the Constitution itself) to govern or even guide agencies in identifying which data they may share with security agencies.

How should HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or other privacy legislation (not to mention the Bill of Rights) be reconciled with the Patriot Act, especially when we now find that even citizens can be stripped of many basic rights simply because they are apprehended and accused by American forces operating abroad?

"The problem, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in our selves...." Security must begin with people, not with technology. The idea that human rights can be surrendered or entrusted to nameless others and still be later recovered has been proven wrong time after time. Regardless of the delay it may cause, we must have a clear public debate and a definitive expression of our values in legislation and in the courts before we open Pandora's data warehouses.

Tony Higgins
Edmonton, Alberta