Sunday, March 25, 2007

The growing TIDE

Watch, writing about this will get me on the watch list, if I'm not already there. I understand the need for the United States to be pro-active on the topic of terrorism, I understand the need for some of the additional cautions placed on us because of this, but it was very troubling to read some of the information in this Washington Post article about TIDE, which is short for "Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment".

Excerpts that I found troubling:

It is the wellspring for watch lists distributed to airlines, law enforcement, border posts and U.S. consulates, created to close one of the key intelligence gaps revealed after Sept. 11, 2001: the failure of federal agencies to share what they knew about al-Qaeda operatives.

But in addressing one problem, TIDE has spawned others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it.

The bar for inclusion is low, and once someone is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off it. At any stage, the process can lead to "horror stories" of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information.

TSA receives thousands of complaints each year, such as this one released to the Electronic Privacy Information Center in 2004 under the Freedom of Information Act: "Apparently, my name is on some watch list because everytime I fly, I get delayed while the airline personnel call what they say is TSA," wrote a passenger whose name was blacked out. Noting that he was a high-level federal worker, he asked what he could do to remove his name from the list.

The answer, Kopel said, is little. A unit at the screening center responds to complaints, he said, but will not remove a name if it is shared by a terrorism suspect. Instead, people not on the list who share a name with someone listed can be issued letters instructing airline personnel to check with the TSA to verify their identity. The GAO reported that 31 names were removed in 2005.

I can't help wondering what happens when the data base becomes overwhelming....


Head Spinner Scott said...

I don't think I am on there yet, but I am a little surprised. I have said many things that could be seen as sympathetic to terrorists by idiots and data mining software. I have also read Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Maybe I am on a fascist watch list instead of terrorist

Hooda Thunkit said...

Perhaps when almost everyone is on a list someone will throw them all out and start over. (recreating the same mess allover again, but faster this time.

Maybe if you had one of my super duper retinal scan, d.n.a. encoded, encrypted universal ID cards. . .