Cost of Mistakes
As a result, U.S immigration authorities deported Arar to Syria, which threw him in jail and held him for nearly a year. After his release, Arar claimed that he had been tortured and repeatedly whipped with electrical cables. Canadian police later acknowledged that the information that it had passed on to the United States about Arars alleged ties to extremists was erroneous. The scandal that resulted from Arars detention ultimately compelled the head of Canadas national police force to resign.What we have really done is given our government carte blanche to build an automated police state, where our comings and goings are watched, recorded, reviewed and scored for their potential threat to society. Our governments security apparatus has become virtually a state within a state that is seemingly beyond the review and regulation of the democratic society that created it ostensibly for its protection. The most distressing factor in this controversy is that through either apathy or ignorance we are all colluding in the erosion of our privacy rights. The government will keep building its screening databases if we are content to remain silent. One of the cherished rights of living in a democratic society is that as long as you obey the law and live peaceably with your neighbors, you have a reasonable expectation that your government will pay little or no attention to your existence except when income taxes are due or when its time once every decade to conduct the national census. We have to defend our privacy rights just as tenaciously as we guard our borders. The incoming Democratic majority in Congress, led by the new Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, has pledged to review the various anti-terrorist database systems like the Automated Targeting System, with an eye toward ensuring they arent casually violating citizens human rights. To read more about government efforts to access Web search records, click here. Such oversight is long overdue. The national trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has given the government the sense that citizens will pay any price and sacrifice long-defended privacy rights in the name of national security. We must reassert those rights and set boundaries for how and when the government gathers information about our personal travels and associations. While data mining systems can be of great potential value in identifying potential threats, citizens have a right to know and to question the information that the government is gathering about them. Its time we moved beyond the shock and paranoia engendered by the 9/11 attacks and balance our desire to defend ourselves from international terrorism with the equally essential need to protect our rights at home.
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The Automated Targeting System is supposed to speed up and improve the effectiveness and presumably the accuracy of our national terror screening effort. But are we just creating an automated system for compiling and compounding identity errors? A system of this scope also has the potential for causing suffering and injustice on a grand scale.