- WASHINGTON (UP) - A Democrat
policy group said Friday that domestic terrorism could best be fought by
using more information technology, including computer chips embedded in
driver's licenses and more sharing of data between law enforcement agencies.
- Progressive Policy Institute released two reports, "Using
Technology to Detect and Prevent Terrorism" and "The State and
Local Role in Homeland Defense." Both call for using modern computer
systems and other technologies.
- Robert Atkinson, the institute's vice president and co-author
of the "Using Technology" report, said incomplete identification
systems and database use thwarted many opportunities police agencies had
to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.
- "If we had had advanced IT tools in place ... it
is almost certain that some of the terrorists would have been detained,
and possibly some of the plots would have been foiled," Atkinson said
in prepared remarks. "We need a coordinated plan that utilizes technology
to modernize our law enforcement, security and identification systems."
- Shane Ham, a senior PPI analyst and Atkinson's co-author,
said the FBI's National Crime Information Center database was a step in
the right direction for information sharing, but its focus on serious crimes
needs to be broadened to help police identify possible terrorists. Police
on the street should receive handheld computers for wireless access to
the improved databases, he said.
- Apart from better data, the Atkinson-Ham report recommends
the government adopt technology applications that include:
- "Smart" ID cards, based on state-issued driver's
licenses with embedded computer chips for holding fingerprints, other identification
methods and additional information. The chips would have security features
to limit information use to specific agencies, as well as prevent forgery
- Digital surveillance methods, along the lines of the
FBI's e-mail and keystroke capturing programs, subject to obtaining proper
warrants and other controls.
- Face-recognition technology to spot known terrorists
and criminals at high-interest events such as the Winter Olympics in Utah.
- Other smart ID proposals put forward this month don't
go far enough, Ham said, since including biometric data such as fingerprints
would help stop criminals from obtaining multiple driver's licenses. The
federal government should also consider funding programs to widen the use
of smart IDs to other identity-sensitive areas, he said, and any federal
support for state programs must be based on performance metrics. "If
we invest in technology the right way, we will protect ourselves not only
from rare but devastating terrorist attacks, but also from everyday problems
such as street crime, disease and natural disasters," Ham said.
- Atkinson said government adoption of smart IDs also could
bring returns on the investment in other areas. Digital signatures, where
people could conduct virtually every kind of financial transaction online,
would become much easier with the cards, he said. Private companies could
also build off such a widespread identity standard, he said.
- The benefits for high-tech industries would be far more
immediate, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy
Information Center. The PPI plan would amount to a "multibillion-dollar
giveaway" to computer and software companies, he said, with little
benefit for homeland security.
- 'Brave New World'
- "This is an organization which has rightfully trumpeted
the booming New Economy, but is now taking us on to 'Brave New World,'"
Rotenberg told United Press International.
- "Technology can play a role in preventing a recurrence
of an event like Sept. 11. In the areas of airport security and hardening
cockpit doors, steps taken there will do far more to protect public safety
than to build a surveillance infrastructure."
- To think that a smart ID card full of information could
be compartmentalized to keep some information from certain government agencies
is nonsense, Rotenberg said. The institute's plan lacks oversight controls
and other safeguards, he said.
- The Privacy Act of 1974 was enacted specifically to prevent
excessive data-sharing among federal agencies, he said, and PPI's plan
would quickly run afoul of the law.
- "Those laws have been upheld as recently as the
year 2000 by the Supreme Court," Rotenberg said. "The PPI is
saying, in effect, let's throw technology at this, and if privacy laws
stand in the way, let's push them aside."
- Copyright 2002 by United Press International.