GAO Says Homeland Security Is Breaking Privacy Laws

from the chalk-another-one-up-for-the-GAO dept

Seems like a week can’t go by without the Government Accountability Office weighing in on the latest thing that our government is doing wrong. We’ve already covered the GAO explaining that piracy isn’t as big a problem as the industry would have you believe, that testing of e-voting machines is not up to acceptable levels, that politicians were wrong to blame file sharing for porn and that the FCC really needs to learn how to count broadband penetration. The latest from the GAO is a report noting that the Department of Homeland Security appears to be breaking privacy laws by not telling people how it uses personal information for people flying into and out of the country. With all of these efforts to set our elected officials straight, you’d think that people would hit back against these GAO reports. Unfortunately, it seems like they are almost universally ignored. It’s great that the GAO seems to keep telling it like it is — but when everyone ignores those reports to focus on industry approved talking points, are they really holding anyone accountable?

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Comments on “GAO Says Homeland Security Is Breaking Privacy Laws”

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Charles Griswold (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Is it just me or has Homeland Security been nothing more than a joke from day one?

It’s a joke, but it’s also in very poor taste.

Is America any safer since Homeland Security was created?

No. I call it the “Department of Homeland Insecurity” because it doesn’t make us any more secure, but instead panders to our insecurities.

Ron (profile) says:


It’s off thread but, we are no safer now than before. Neither are we really less safe than say, 5-10 years ago. There have always been nutters out there who want to “get” Americans. They are jealous, crazy, fanatic, etc. It’s the government that wants us to be fearful so they can take more of our freedoms from us in the guise of protecting us.

Back on thread: The GAO must not be a government agency. First, they seem to do useful things. Their published reports seem to make sense. How do they manage to get funded when they make sense doing useful things? Shouldn’t we, as the public, be able to raise some sort of cry that demands the government listen to the GAO?

And, I would love to see the HS office have to publish a list of what information they collect, who they share it with, and a means of correcting stuff on it. Imagine them having to obey at least some law.

lar3ry says:

A joke?

Is it just me or has Homeland Security been nothing more than a joke from day one? Is America any safer since Homeland Security was created?

A joke? What kind of joke violates privacy laws? What kind of joke has the ability to intimidate solely through the use of its name “Department of Homeland Security?”

A government agency must abide by the rules. If it doesn’t, then it is working against itself. How can it be saying that its job is to enforce the law when it feels it can break the law willy-nilly?

A policeman may not break the law in order to apprehend a criminal, despite what Hollywood would let you believe. Some do, and some may even get away with it, but I don’t want to live in a society where that’s the expected behavior.

That’s similar to the fact that a President and his Executive must abide by the constitution that they’ve sworn to uphold and defend.

If it’s a joke, then the past five and a half years have been the saddest joke in American history.

John B says:

The reason the GAO can continue to provide real critiques of the Bush administration is that David Walker, the head of the GAO (the Comptroller General of the United States) is appointed for a 15 year term, precisely so that he can remain beyond the reach of politics. Clinton appointed Walker in 1998, so his term will expire after Bush Jr. has left the White House. Thank God, eh?

I saw walker speak at a conference here in DC several years ago, and I was quite impressed with him and especially his integrity. Here is a link to his bio:

Old Guy says:


Since 9/11, the government of my country has done more damage to privacy and civil liberty than at any other time in the last 50 years. Our founding fathers would have been appalled (and most likely grabbing their muskets) at the things the current administration has done and gotten away with.

Ben Franklin knew what he was about when he said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security”

The GAO is serving notice to the people of this country that those in power do not care about anything other than maintaining and indeed increasing the power that they have over our everyday lives. Unfortunately according to the US Census only 142m of 197m registered to vote, and of them only 85m actually did vote.

The government counts on our apathy! That why and how they get away with all the things they do.

Ok rant is over

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:


The GAO are obviously a bunch of left-leaning, lily-livered liberal lovers with no grasp of the cherished principles of Democratic Theory as so memorably expounded by John “I Am The Walrus” Bolton on The Daily Show. Don’t these people understand that things have changed since 11/9? That we have to keep an eye on these Ay-rabs and people who are trying to undermine the Glorious USian Fatherland? How else are we going to maintain the USA as the #1 bastion of Tolerance, Democracy and Free Speech in the world?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: random thoughts

If the government thought that you should take a lie detector test and then be tattooed with a number to prove that you are not a terrorist would that be OK? It would sure cut down on crime. They could implant RFIDs in everyone and that would stop a lot of crime.

You see the problem is that once you take away any freedom for any reason you don’t get those freedoms back. Should the government be able to track you anywhere you go? Should they be allowed to break down any door, without a warrant, because they don’t want anyone to be tipped off? Should the government be able to put anyone in jail without a trial and keep them there for 6-8 years?

That is my agenda driven crap. You can’t let the government go wild, as they have, or next time you will be their target. Torture terrorists today and who tomorrow? If they torture us do we torture them? If they don’t torture us do we still torture them?

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