August 21, 2006 3:21 PM PDT

Homeland Security chief promises privacy safeguards

NORWALK, Calif.--Privacy rules will be closely regarded as intelligence gathering and sharing get a boost, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said.

Collecting more information and correlating data from various law enforcement agencies is crucial to national security, Chertoff told reporters Friday after touring a new, high-tech law enforcement center in this Los Angeles suburb. But increased intelligence gathering and sharing doesn't equal less privacy for U.S. citizens, he said.

"As we have broadened information sharing, we have made sure that there are strict rules in effect...that prevent people from misusing that information or putting it out improperly," he said. "That's built into the DNA of this and all of our intelligence-sharing capabilities."

While Chertoff offered privacy promises, his department has often raised the ire of privacy watchers. The Department of Homeland Security has been embroiled in a number of privacy flaps, including what independent government auditors last year called illegal data collection of some 250,000 airline passengers. This year, the department picked as a top privacy official a lawyer who defended the data collection as probably legal.

There are laws, including the USA Patriot Act, that strictly protect the gathered data, Chertoff said. "We're very sensitive about the issue of privacy in general when we maintain intelligence," he said. The Patriot Act is seen by opponents as giving law enforcement too much free rein in the name of national security.

Chertoff visited the first-of-its-kind Joint Regional Intelligence Center, which joins federal, state and local law enforcement in one facility. Analysts and investigators at the center handle intelligence from the various agencies on potential threats to national security, in particular terrorism, and correlate the data.

The center is part of a post-Sept. 11 effort to improve law enforcement collaboration and to "connect the dots" so potentially valuable intelligence does not go unnoticed.

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Video: Homeland security chief talks privacy
Michael Chertoff appears at the opening of the Joint Regional Intelligence Center in Norwalk, Calif.

"The whole name of the game here with counterterrorism is information sharing and early warning," Chertoff said. "Our radar for terrorism is intelligence...It is the radar of the 21st century, and if we let that radar go down, we're going to be flying blind."

Chertoff blasted a U.S. District Court decision last week to strike down the government's once-secret program for warrantless Internet and telephone surveillance. "If (the decision) were in fact ultimately to prevail, it would have a huge effect and a negative effect because it would really hamper our ability to collect intelligence," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union had filed suit against the government, claiming the program "ran roughshod" over the constitutional rights of millions of Americans and ran afoul of federal wiretapping law. The government has appealed the decision and can continue its surveillance program pending that appeal, Chertoff said.

"The ability to be nimble and efficient and use all of our tools--including all of our surveillance tools--in order to capture plots before they come to fruition is the No. 1 way we keep Americans safe," he said. He referenced the foiled terror plot to blow up transatlantic airliners as an example of good use of intelligence.

"We need to make sure we're not letting obstacles come in the way of sharing information and of getting information and analyzing it," Chertoff said.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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14 comments

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free reign (sic)
The correct phrase is "free rein".
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
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Big OOPS
Thanks! We've fixed that mistake. -- Joris, CNET
Posted by JorisEvers (48 comments )
Link Flag
no info misuse... really?
In the article Homeland Sec. Chief Chertoff said, "As we have broadened information sharing, we have made sure that there are strict rules in effect...that prevent people from misusing that information or putting it out improperly." Is the organization technologically ready to back up that promise?

Hopefully they'll talk to the VA about their data storage laptop mishaps before Homeland Sec. analysts take their work home <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article18.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article18.htm</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bad news!
People may not like what I'm about to say but I really don't care... I'll say it anyway.

I've had a long life and a good life. I've never critisized my government and I have put my life on the line many times to defend this great land of ours.

Spying on Americans by the government don't go over good in my book. We had and do have correct proceedures in place to spy on the bad guys. It's called a Court Order. The Courts are the watch dog that prevent misuse of the power to spy on people. One of the reasons I put my life on the line for this great country was to protect the freedoms and privacy that we all love.

If we lose our privacy the Terrorists have won! They have taken away a right that a lot of us have fought and died for.

I don't know about anybody else, but I, for one, will do everything I can to make sure that privacy don't dissappear for the great people of the United States of America.
Posted by acklark (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There are other solutions, other avenue
It never ceases to amaze me that so many Americans will believe the lies of their government, even when the violations of the law are obvious and transparent.

Judge Taylor approached this case with a great deal of caution, fully conscientious of her duties as a judge. She went to great pains to give the Executive branch the benefit of every possible doubt, and she was extremely careful to cite only the most honored rulings passed down by past judges and courts.

The Legislative branch has come treasonously close to granting the Executive damned near everything it has ever asked for (not just this President, but all of them at one time or another). But I ask you: how many Presidents felt it was necessary to National Security to suspend those precious freedoms for which so many Americans stood in harms way to protect (like the gentleman above  acklark)? Even President Franklin Roosevelt, who understood the necessity for closed lips better than most other Presidents made the preservation of freedoms a central point in his strategy (in his Four Freedoms speech  the 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress on January 6th that year  eleven months before our entry into the global upheaval which threatened the liberties of every one on this planet).

I invite each of you to take just a few minutes to consider his words, what they meant, and how they compare to what is being asked by the current Executive:

[Greatly abridged, to keep it short, yet pertinent): American security has never been as seriously threatened from without as it is today& I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is, at this moment, being directly assailed in every part of the world& We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests&

The need of the moment is that our actions and our policy should be devoted primarily  almost exclusively  to meeting this foreign peril. For all our domestic problems are now a part of the great emergency. Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all of our fellow men within our gates, so our national policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all nations &

We are committed to the proposition that principle of morality and considerations for our own security will never permit us to acquiesce in a peace dictated by aggressors& There is certain information, as the Congress itself will readily recognize, which must of needs be kept in confidence. New circumstances are constantly begetting new needs for our safety. I shall ask this Congress for greatly increased new appropriations and authorizations to carry on what we have begun.

No one can tell the exact character of the emergency situations that we may be called upon to meet. The nations hands must not be tied when the nations life is in danger. A free nation has the right to expect full cooperation from all groups& Those who man our defenses must have the stamina and the courage which comes from unshakeable belief in the manner of life they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all things worth fighting for.

The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others
Jobs for those who can work
Security for those who need it
The ending of special privilege for the few
The preservation of civil liberties for all
The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and consistently rising
standard of living

These are the simple, the basic things must never be lost sight of in the turmoil of our modern world. In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression; the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. A society [such as ours] is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands, heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.

It would be the height of stupidity to attempt to improve on Roosevelts words, and nothing less than unfounded egotism to try to interpret or distill them. Therefore, I have nothing more to add.
Posted by Pluqueric (14 comments )
Link Flag
Right
And the check is in the mail, and I'll respect you in the morning,
and . . .

Close the borders. Start profiling those that would do us harm.
Cut out the theater at the airports (checking little old ladies and
everyone EXCEPT those we should be looking at) THEN tell us
you are serious about security and protecting our rights.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
call off my spys!!!!!!!!
I am not a terrorist.. I am followed everywhere I go.. whenever I get a job.. I am conspired against to get fired.. I went to liberal college (Evergreen State) and I helped build RealNetworks (1.0 - 4.0)at age 17-20.. and now my life has been run into the ground.. I have been labled crazy and am forced to live on public assistance..

from researching my plight online.. I have found that my reality mirrors many activists..

this is wrong.. very wrong..
Posted by freq (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do something...
...about it.

You could take a drug to combat the feelings of paranoia.

You could get a job, any job.

You could blow up something that someone thinks that matters.

You could go to jail and get three hots and a cot each and every day.

You could stop whining and join the real world.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
Transparent Policy
I'm not sanguine about the abuse of power. Put it to one side for just a moment and consider:

1. The technology is such that policy has become outdated. The nature of packet-based networks requires a different policy for interception than phone lines did.

2. Whatever this administration has done, Chertoff is right about the constraints. They exist and if followed can serve the best interests of security and privacy.

3. While the political process moves slowly, these surveillance technologies are quickly making their way into the State and local agencies as part of the normal public safety procurement cycles. As the story mentions, the JRIC has no authority over the local dispatch systems, but the Call for Service records are automatically transferred to the police records management systems to enable after-incident investigations. The investigative information needed is in the not-real-time systems. The real time systems such as dispatch only go online into regional command and control given an incident of national significance. At that point, that is precisely what you want them to do; otherwise, examine Katrina and understand what happens when the call lists fall apart and assets aren't managed quickly in response to a quickly developing catastrophe.

Be vigilant about the policy process and the exact wording and implementation of the policies. It is easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Understand that local and State jurisdiction still prevails, that Federal funding is the most powerful influence in policy and procurement, and if you believe that local politics don't matter, get over that. Who you vote for has never mattered more and this is not going to change because governments don't abuse, administrations do. You can change that.

Meanwhile, come to understand that the 24 x7 x 365 anywhere anytime for anyone communications infrastructure that makes News.Com possible makes the abuse possible. If you benefit by it, you also accept the responsibility to be vigilant about its potential abuses.

Policy is the key. For records management, start with CFR 28 Part 23, and become familiar with the rules the law enforcement agencies must abide by. The founders of this country provided laws and you must be willing to discover who will enforce them and who will not.

But you must also understand that there is no going back. The genie is out of the bottle and even if the terrorist flavor of the month goes away, another will take their place and this technology will still be there.

Choose wisely.

Len Bullard
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A deep thought!
Where will our rights and ammendments and constitution be after the terrorists have been allowed to run amok in our society without our ability to do anything because those who can do something have been blindfolded by those same rights which might cease to exist if the terrorists win!

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Privacy safeguarded? Yeah right!
If NSA is spying on us and policing everything we do, especially the internet, then our privacy is not safeguarded. That's the bottom line. It totally violates our rights basic right to privacy. This is the kind of thing one would expect in countries like Iran or China where censorship and internet policing is common, but we are supposed to be a country that allows it's citizens to their right to privacy. At this moment, I'm afraid to even surf the web with out using some kind of privacy software like what Anonymizer has. Companies like Anonymizer have software that allows a person to surf the web privately, which is a good thing, but up until recently, I never thought I would have to use it myself. Anonymizer gives out there software as an anti-censorship solution to those who live in countries with very stringent censorship laws (like Iran and China), yet we seem to be on par with these same countries because our basic rights to privacy have been violated. (Go to www.anonymizer.com to get there solution or go to <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://zidanchun.com/" target="_newWindow">http://zidanchun.com/</a> to read about their anti-censorship solution.) I'm just really disappointed and afraid for the future of our country.
Posted by cathleen_44 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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