8/12/2005

Data Mining and Civil Liberties

In the wake of the revelation that the military's "Able Danger" intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other key 9/11 terrorists in plenty of time to stop their brutal attack, the 9/11 Commission's credibility is in tatters. They failed to include the information in their report because it didn't match other information they had! For a complete rundown go read Captains Quarters. Just keep scrolling...

I want to step back from that for a second and look at the means of acquiring that information. According to published reports, the military used data mining techniques to find Atta and his co-conspirators. This is the source of considerable controversy because of concerns about civil liberties.

I'm fiercly attached to my freedoms as an American citizen. I don't want to give up my rights under our Constitution. But we're at war. And frankly I don't think most people are taking it very seriously. In wartime, things have to change. Freedom of speech and association are not unfairly abridged when known or suspected terrorists are tracked. I want the government to learn everything they can about the bad guys. Prevention is a lot better than punishment after the fact.

It's a good thing that we freed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from brutal regimes. I think it was worth doing. But it doesn't bring back one of the people who died on 9/11. A few months ago, we stood at Ground Zero in New York City. Anything we can do to prevent a repeat of that day is worth it. Even if it takes the government looking through computer records to make connections!

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