Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Official Identity Theft

an excerpt from the article by

Frances Madeson

Read the entire article at:

Frances Madeson is the author of a new comic novel, Cooperative Village, which chronicles the travails of a woman who becomes subject to the USA PATRIOT Act when her library card goes astray. More information is at the publisher’s website,

Thanks to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine’s March 9 audit report detailing the FBI’s handling of expanded surveillance powers granted under the USA PATRIOT Act, subsequent media reports, and congressional hearings called to probe the findings, we now know that the FBI’s been doing the same “heckuva job” with respect to information gathering and storage characteristic of other sectors of the Bush administration.

Though the toothpaste is out of the tube, I wonder if people generally grasp the enormity of the damage done. There is in existence an electronic database with over a half-billion records, containing information collected via extrajudicial requests made in National Security Letters, the majority of which pertain to U.S. citizens. Your banking and credit activities, telephone and internet usage records, insurance policies, post office box rental, car, boat and home ownership records could already be in the FBI’s Investigative Data Warehouse. If so, no one need inform you. If the information is incorrect, there’s no way to fix it. It is shared among 10,000 government employees at multiple agencies, and is stored for 20 years even if you have no connection whatsoever to a crime. In fact, only 65 convictions correlated to information obtained by the FBI from over 143,000 NSL demands made during 2003-2005.

We look to Congress for remedies, and soon. While days, weeks, and now months have passed since the issuance of the Inspector General’s audit report, how many thousands more NSLs have been delivered accompanied by their repugnant gag orders? How many additional unjustifiable intrusions into our privacy will be tolerated by our representatives in Washington? Combined with NSA illegal wiretapping, ever-expanding definitions of “domestic terrorism,” and initiatives to promote national identity cards, a truly horrifying and wholly un-American landscape is on the immediate horizon.

None of this is inevitable; it happens only if we let it happen. The more this administration and their would-be successors celebrate the savagery of Guantanamo and call for its expansion (Romney), sanction waterboarding (Guiliani), and lay Baghdadian waste to our desire for an enduring American democracy, the more we must and will morph from our mundane selves into mini-Jeffersons and Betsy Rosses, stitching our homespun flags and stoking the fires of liberty.

Personally, I’m resolute. I’m not a child, slave, or extra in their video game fantasies. I’m a grown American woman—hale, hearty, and up for this fight for my nation’s soul—and try as they will to debase that, it still means something beautiful to me.

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