War on terrorism curtails privacy

President George W. Bush-appointed and former Iran-Contra scandal culprit John Poindexter, who heads the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Information Awareness Office, is fervently working on an information system which could provide the government with more data about you than you mustn’t be ready to give.

Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness System would give the government the right to obtain, without a warrant, virtually any form of documentation on you that it deems necessary to ensure national security. This includes all financial, commercial, travel and personal medical records, to name a few.

It is ironic that Bush selected Poindexter for a position aimed at uncovering secret information and financial supporters of terrorist organizations, given his previous penchant for secrecy and missile trade.

In fact, Poindexter was charged with conspiracy, two counts of obstructing Congress and two counts of making false statements – charges that led to convictions in April 1990. Perhaps Bush is of the opinion that it takes a criminal mind to catch one.

But far from calling Poindexter a “criminal,” press secretary Ari Fleischer told us earlier this year that “Admiral Poindexter is somebody who (the Bush) administration thinks is an outstanding American and an outstanding citizen.”

Like the majority of Bush’s cronies, Poindexter is rallying support for this infringement on the Privacy Act of 1974, on the premise that our “new kind of war” can only be fought with a new kind of weapon. This entails “broadened” governmental knowledge of what we do and when we do it. The Privacy Act of 1974 protects citizens from the misuse of records by federal agencies and would have to be amended in order to comply with Poindexter’s plan.

If Poindexter is given the thumbs up for his massive reform of information sharing, it will alter the way government (literally) looks at us, but it should also alter the way in which we look at ourselves. Curtailing our rights to privacy as U.S. citizens by putting us under the expanded scrutiny of the governmental gaze will not necessarily further the war on terrorism; it will make us prisoners of it.

Amy Kamel, graduate student, French literary criticism