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U.S. Gov't Spent $30M On Citizens' Personal Info 181

Posted by timothy
from the someone-call-will-rogers-about-that-payment-thing dept.
infosec_spaz writes "According to a news story on Yahoo! News, the U.S. Government has spent US$30 million in the last year on buying citizens' personal phone records from online brokers...The very ones who Congress is trying to put out of business." From the Article:"Congressional investigators estimated the U.S. government spent $30 million last year buying personal data from private brokers. But that number likely understates the breadth of transactions, since brokers said they rarely charge law enforcement agencies any price." "So...who is getting all of BellSouth, SBC(AT&T) and other phone records?"
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U.S. Gov't Spent $30M On Citizens' Personal Info

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  • by damburger (981828) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:28AM (#15569032)

    Silly American government, spending taxpayers money buying personal data...

    Our government *sells* personal data, saving the taxpayer money! [theregister.co.uk]

  • Bad News... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Gibberx (631490) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:31AM (#15569056)
    This is pretty bad news for fugitives who want a FREE XBOX 360*!!!
  • by stratjakt (596332) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:31AM (#15569060) Journal
    Ok first off, this is an AP story - not a Yahoo! News story, because Yahoo! News doesn't write or report news any more than slashdot does, they just cut and paste.

    But lets look down the bulleted list:

    _A U.S. Labor Department employee who used her government e-mail address and phone number to buy two months of personal cellular phone records of a woman in New Jersey.

    _A buyer who received credit card information about the father of murder victim Jon Benet Ramsey.

    _A buyer who obtained 20 printed pages of phone calls by pro basketball player Damon Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    OK, so these are individual people who happen to work for the Government - not the government itself, ie; it's not like theres the "department of buying phone records" set up somewhere.

    I was watching MSNBC's "to catch a predator", the sting operation where they lure pedophiles to a house thinking there's a 13 year old waiting, and then bust them. One guy they busted was some sort of government official, but nobody started reporting the news that "Government is now molesting children!"

    Blah, reactionary clap-trap "arrr we hate bush arrr".

    As far as the NSA - they don't need to buy your personal information. They already have it.
    • by damburger (981828) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:38AM (#15569128)
      If government employees are doing something on government time in the process of doing their job, surely the government is doing that thing? (seeing as a government is, ultimately, just a group of people)

      The article is alarmist - but that is a better for the press to be too alarmist than to be insufficently dilligent.
      • by SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:23AM (#15569531) Journal
        If government employees are doing something on government time in the process of doing their job, surely the government is doing that thing?

        This just in.....

        An overwhelming amount of commercial entities and businesses now use Slashdot to keep up on important news and stuff that matters. A survey of cubicle occupants confirms this information.
      • Right...so now another way my tax dollar is being used to violate my privacy. Oh, the irony. I don't know whether I should laugh or cry.
      • If government employees are doing something on government time in the process of doing their job, surely the government is doing that thing? (seeing as a government is, ultimately, just a group of people)

        The article is alarmist - but that is a better for the press to be too alarmist than to be insufficently dilligent.


        What?? This article is not alarmist, it is WRONG.

        Just because we are members of a group of people (as you said) does not mean we lose our individuality. We retain our ability to make decisions
        • What?? This article is not alarmist, it is WRONG. Just because we are members of a group of people (as you said) does not mean we lose our individuality. We retain our ability to make decisions and act for ourselves independently of the group. This is something we learned during World War Two. It is the reason we no longer trust racist assumptions. It is the justification behind the end of bigotry. I actually find what you said to be offensive.

          You're comparing me with racists and Nazis? You know what

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:42AM (#15569160) Journal
      Even if Yahoo! News cut-and-pasted the AP story, you've still got to attribute your source -- in this case, Yahoo! News (though a link and attribution to the AP story would have been preferable).

      Second, many news sites (and papers) rewrite the AP copy, and some even do a little additional research. Semantically, Yahoo! News is doing the reporting, not AP. AP may have done the research and written the copy, but it is Yahoo! who is presenting it to the public (reporting).

      OK, so these are individual people who happen to work for the Government - not the government itself, ie; it's not like theres the "department of buying phone records" set up somewhere.
      What the hell do you think government is, but a collection of individuals? And how can they spend $30 mil, plus have had untold free requests honored, if there was not some systematic acquisition of records?

      Hey, look! Some of the requests were by individuals for individual records relating to individual research issues!!!1 Therefore, there is no systematic inquiry! /sarcasm

      One, it doesn't matter whether it is systematic or not -- there is still a privacy issue.

      Two, those individual cases are red herrings.

      Three, the government is a collection of individuals that are employed by the people, along with the established rules governing their activities and ours. If a system (in this case, the government) allows regular abuse, then the system is at fault just as much as the individuals abusing the system -- particularly if the abuse is so rampant that those individuals don't even consider it out of the ordinary.
      • A red herring? Not really.

        The fact of the matter is that there's no credible evidence here that the government was involved in most of the examples given. And no, individuals aren't "the government".

        Now, one of those records might be official. The murdered child's father might have been a suspect, and the acquisition of his phone records might have been a legitimate investigative tactic which is frequently used. No, I don't like these companies. I'd rather see the records come straight out of the phone comp
        • "And no, individuals aren't 'the government'."

          What? They sure are. Individual employees acting with government authority in the course of government work are not government? Even if the employees are acting outside of the scope of their duties, they are still government employees, acting with government authority, billing the charges to the government, and hence, government. This is not an isolated problem relating to a few individuals, it is systemic, and therefore a problem with government, not with
          • Individual employees acting with government authority in the course of government work are not government?

            Of course they are.

            Even if the employees are acting outside of the scope of their duties, they are still government employees, acting with government authority, billing the charges to the government, and hence, government.

            If it's being paid for BY THE GOVERNMENT, and not by the individuals who work for the government, then I would agree, though it obviously might not be any sort of coordinated "plan".

            • "Of course they are."

              So this contradicts what you were saying earlier? I'm just not sure if you were writing of something else when you said it wasn't government...

              "I'm not sure I see how this is systemic. There are hundreds of thousands of government employees. That there were a small number of them that racked up $30m doing something doesn't really make it seem that systemic to me."

              $30 mil is a lot of money for a 'small number' of individuals. Does the system (the government) allow this activity?
    • Plus if all they spent was 30m I'd be surprised if they actually ended up with anything. It costs 30m just for the government to start thinking about something. Much less actually get something done.
    • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:01AM (#15569311)
      OK, so these are individual people who happen to work for the Government . . .

      In law enforcement. For law enforcement purposes.

      I was watching MSNBC's "to catch a predator", the sting operation where they lure pedophiles to a house thinking there's a 13 year old waiting, and then bust them.

      These busts have always been of extremely dubious validity. As one guy who got busted said (my paraphrase) , "I didn't think there was a 13 year old waiting for me. I went to find out who the person really was and the woman who presented herself to me was obviously about 30 pretending to be younger. People lie. I know that."

      When you start busting people for thought crimes you start busting them for what you think they think and statutory rape is a crime of fact, i.e. it doesn't matter what they think, it matters what they did.

      Playing naughty cheerleader and coach isn't a crime if the "naughty cheerleader" isn't 13.

      As far as the NSA. . .

      They don't arrest people. Law enforcement does. Law enforcement is supposed to have checks and bounds on their surviellence activities.

      They already have it.

      Yeah, they bought it a few years ago.

      Blah, reactionary clap-trap "arrr we hate bush arrr".

      Well, if he's doing illegal surviellence, yeah. I react to that sort of thing.

      KFG
      • When you start busting people for thought crimes you start busting them for what you think they think and statutory rape is a crime of fact, i.e. it doesn't matter what they think, it matters what they did.

        If you believe that, then walk into a bank wearing a ski mask.
        • How's that a thought crime? You wouldn't be hassled for thinking about doing that/thinking about robbing the bank. You'd be hassled for committing the act (not that walking into a bank wearing a ski mask should, in and of itself be a bad thing).
      • "When you start busting people for thought crimes you start busting them for what you think they think and statutory rape is a crime of fact, i.e. it doesn't matter what they think, it matters what they did....Playing naughty cheerleader and coach isn't a crime if the "naughty cheerleader" isn't 13."

        You know...when watching these things on the news awhile back...I'm wondering what in fact they are charging these people with? The person on the other end of the phone and computer were NOT minors

        • ...I'm wondering what in fact they are charging these people with?

          Usually soliciting a minor, but as you point out the person wan't a minor; and as a number of these people have pointed out they were reasonably sure the person wasn't a minor before they met them and certain of it after meeting them, no matter what the person said.

          People "play pretend." It gets them off.

          What happens in practice, because even the accusation of a sex crime is so damaging, let alone bearing going through a public trial for same
        • It's conspiracy (Score:3, Interesting)

          by anomaly (15035)
          And a darn good thing, too. I want those perverts in jail where they can
          a) be away from kids, and
          b) know the fear and intimidation of being powerless against their attackers.

          I know people get bent out of shape 'round here about "Your Rights Online" and claim that the thought police are unfairly busting people for mere fantasy, but I strongly object to that characterization.

          No physical act every occurs that doesn't first occur in someone's mind. Sexual "fantasy" eventually moves from thought to action. Lu
          • "I want those perverts in jail...No physical act every occurs that doesn't first occur in someone's mind...You don't have the right to nurture fantasies about sex with..."

            While I agree with you that people that take illegal actions should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law...the thoughts thing you go into kind of frightens me.

            "Normal" every day people out there...pretty much ALL have occasional, twisted thoughts ranging from suicide, to sexual 'perversions' (ranging from beastiality, necrophilia

    • Stop trying to spin this story to your political ends. The list you give is halfway through the article, as an example of people who also use the service. It comes after a much longer list of government agencies that are using the services.

      You deliberately lied, hoping that people would believe your summary and not read the story, didn't you? You hate it when "your team" looks bad, don't you? This isn't about partisan politics. Would you have the same dismissive reaction if it were a Democrat in office right now? Your "Arr, we hate bush, arr," comment gives your game away. No one is saying they hate Bush. We hate what the government is doing, and we'd hate it if it were a Democrat doing it.

    • It sounded strange to me also that the government would PAY for what they would suppose is theirs by their god-given right to fight terrorism.

      They do however finance a few companies in the Total Information Awareness program that make usual brokers pale in comparison...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:31AM (#15569061)
    I use CASH for alll transactions
    I take a different route every time I go somewhere
    I use different public pay phones all the time
    I use random public WiFi hotspots
    I don't use the Internet
    I don't surf Slashdot
    I don't use electricity
    I don't have any artificial fibers in my clothing
    I am a mountain man, my wild plant eating skills are unsurpassed
    And finally...
    I drink Budwiser, the king of beers for paranoid people
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:32AM (#15569063)
    If the government had done the spying themselves, it would probably have cost $30 *BILLION*. Kudos to them for spending our taxpayer $$ wisely!

    -Eric

  • So what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:33AM (#15569074)
    I don't really care if the government wants to find out how to better target their product advertisements. In fact, I prefer it because it should reduce the number advertisements that I have to watch for government products that I am not interested in.

    Doh!
    • You laugh, but I've honestly seen advertisements on TV and on the radio for government programs. As if we don't have enough people getting Social Security already, they decide to spend a few extra kilobucks saturating the airwaves, making sure there isn't somebody out there not getting their check. Thanks a lot -- what's next, free promotional giveaways for going on welfare? (How about a gift certificate to WalMart?)

      That obnoxious guy in the question-mark suit who sells the "Free Government Money!" books sh
  • Just... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dubmun (891874) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:33AM (#15569075) Homepage Journal
    another expense column in a war on terror. But who's expense is it?
    • Two views... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlackCobra43 (596714)
      The classical answer would be "The taxpayer", however I believe the problem is now too far-reaching and with long-lasting implications; the correct answer has become "The taxpayer's children". THEY are the ones who will shoulder the burden of these unnecessary expenses AND of the gradual remmoval of privacy...
      • "The taxpayer's children". THEY are the ones who will shoulder the burden of these unnecessary expenses AND of the gradual remmoval of privacy...

        but in a sad way, if they grow up EXPECTING no personal freedoms, how will they know the difference?

        the country I knew as a child seems pretty far gone, at this point. and sadly, I do NOT see any personal freedoms that we lost coming back to us in our lifetime ;(

        once power is grabbed by the mob^Hgov, it will NOT be willingly returned. we know that from human hist
  • Two wrongs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:33AM (#15569078) Journal

    Numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies have bypassed subpoenas and warrants designed to protect civil liberties and gathered Americans' personal telephone records from private-sector data brokers.

    These brokers, many of whom advertise aggressively on the Internet, have gotten into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and even acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents gathered by congressional investigators and provided to The Associated Press.

    So, the US Government, which tells us it is trying to protect us, is doing it by buying illegal records. What else is new?

    When it comes to security, any kind of security, it's a black ops world. The Federal Government is not going to have any qualms about getting what it wants, precisely because it wields so much unfettered power. While we elect our President and Congressional Representatives, once we do, we tend to let them go their own way and the average American doesn't apply much oversight to them, unless they've done something blatantly wrong, and even then people don't always react appropriately.

    So here's the Government, telling us it needs our phone records and plenty of people are like "oh sure, if it's for security reasons," little realizing that it doesn't matter if they give their ok or not -- the Feds will get the data, even if from admittedly illegal sources. Come on -- do you think spying on another country is "legal?"

    Of course now someone is going to decide to sue the government, taking them to task for dealing with these brokers. There will be Congressional hearings on the matter, a lot of harrumphing, and in the meantime, the Government will simply find another way to get the data it wants.

    • Re:Two wrongs (Score:3, Informative)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      Come on -- do you think spying on another country is "legal?"

      Yes, yes it is. Oh, do you mean legal according to their laws, or legal according to ours?

      I think if you check Article II Section 4 of the US Constitution, you'll find the blanket authorization that allowed the Congress to grant permission by law to the President:

      He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the

      • Yes, yes it is. Oh, do you mean legal according to their laws, or legal according to ours?

        Well, according to our laws it is, but let's face it: what country is actually going to invite our spying on them? Francis Gary Powers didn't actually get a warm reception when the Soviet Union shot down his U-2. We can justify spying in terms of our security, but no other country will gladly hand over its secrets for our perusal, even they do the same thing to us and are quite unapologetic. The point I was trying

        • You're right about disregard by the government of the rule of law, but the whole point of political independence is that you don't have to abide by others' laws. That said, we (on the surface, anyway) agree to respect the laws of other states, simply because to do otherwise would harm our relations with them. And of course, domestically, the government should abide by the law with absolute conviction at all levels.
    • Come on -- do you think spying on another country is "legal?"


      Can you show where it is made illegal?
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:35AM (#15569097) Homepage
    This is why neither companies nor government should have access to that data. Anyone who has it really needs to keep it confidential and be responsible if it gets out.

    Government agencies freely buying information they are essentially constitutionally barred from having is BAD! I find it even more distressing that due to some of the extraterritorial implications of the PATRIOT act, US firms could cause *my* personal information to seep back into US control, and become US government property despite Canadian privacy laws which are supposed to prevent exactly that.

    I used to respect the US constitution and system of government. Now, they're really beginning to scare me as they become more of a police state.

    You have already lost to terrorism, time to stop pretending you still care about those constitutional protections and just roll over.
    • You have already lost to terrorism, time to stop pretending you still care about those constitutional protections and just roll over.

      Surely you meant bend over?
  • Vote GOP! (Score:4, Funny)

    by dsgitl (922908) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:36AM (#15569103)
    This is why I love the conservative philosophy of government! They're the guys that respect privacy and limited government intrustion! Illegally gathering my phone records and then selling them to the government? Sounds good to me!

    Basically, so long as fags can't marry, I'm 100 percent happy with my country right now.
  • Data Warehouse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neonprimetime (528653) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:37AM (#15569118)
    FBI lawyers rationalized that even though data brokers may have obtained financial information, agents could still use the information because brokers were not acting as a consumer-reporting agency but rather as a data warehouse.

    So seriously, what's the difference?
    • Re:Data Warehouse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:52AM (#15569240) Homepage
      FBI lawyers rationalized that even though data brokers may have obtained financial information, agents could still use the information because brokers were not acting as a consumer-reporting agency but rather as a data warehouse.

      So seriously, what's the difference?


      A few things:

      1) Apparently the "U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act" explicitly prevents them from getting some kinds of information. Ever.

      2) Someone (or multiple someone's) have given legal opinions that "The FBI said it relies only on well-respected data brokers and expects agents to abide by the law. "The FBI can only collect and retain data available from commercial databases in strict compliance with applicable federal law," spokesman Mike Kortan said Monday.

      Basically, they've been told it's OK to buy information they're not supposed to have, from someone who may have used illegal means, because since it's at arms length (ie. no Federal employee needed to break a law) and not an organization who is bound to obey any consumer protection laws, it must be all OK. All of the crimes were comitted by other people who apparently don't have to follow the rules.

      You know, it's like when Rumsfeld and Gonzales make any of their scary-assed interpretations on legal issues. We can torture them if we don't show photos or if we can keep it secret. We can deem constitutional protections don't apply to certain citizens when it's inconvenient. What Geneva convention? Trade agreements don't apply. That kind of stuff.

      Scary, indeed!
      • aka, 'crime by proxy'.

        "I didn't do it. some other guy might have done bad stuff, but we didn't. we're just buying a product from them."

        let me turn this around. slashdotters will 'get' this analogy, I'm sure.

        how is this 'turn a blind eye' any diff from consumers buying mp3's from russia? I wasnt' there to see or know how they came upon the mp3's. I'm paying legal money and getting a product. that's fair, right?

        same logic for gov - same for me, then. thanks gov! I'll add some more balance to my allofm
      • Basically, they've been told it's OK to buy information they're not supposed to have, from someone who may have used illegal means, because since it's at arms length (ie. no Federal employee needed to break a law) and not an organization who is bound to obey any consumer protection laws, it must be all OK. All of the crimes were comitted by other people who apparently don't have to follow the rules.

        Not too unlike hiring a hitman. Target: America.
    • So seriously, what's the difference?

      No difference. Since the data are available for purchase by just anybody, though, it's more of a data whorehouse than a data warehouse.

  • by Bender Unit 22 (216955) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:39AM (#15569135) Journal
    How can it be legal to sell this information? I am not American so I don't understand the laws. I am used to laws where there are strict rules for all companies that holds personal information, what they can do with it and how they shall protect it.

    Can you also sell personal information from websites? Like what people have visited etc.
    Perhaps if you own a site where peole have used their credit card. Can you sell the information about what they have done?

    • How can it be legal to sell this information? I am not American so I don't understand the laws.
      Don't be too hard on yourself. I AM American, and still can't understand the laws, as they are currently being applied.
    • These aren't legitimate corporations, or at least they aren't known for their scruples. These 'brokers' obtain the information illegally, and sell it to anyone they want to. The question should be, why aren't they getting arrested for their crimes, instead of profitting from the very people that should be shutting them down?

      I guess we justify it by saying that law enforcement has been using informants for as long as it's been around. Think of this as Jimmy the Fink with a paypal account, and an email addr

    • You're amazed? Well the a lot of governments are buying information to get around the legal issues. The government is trying to prevent people from living anonymously. The government has become concern that they can't keep track of citizens. Governments have been doing this for years. Do you really think that national ID laws are their to protect us from terrorism? That's mybe part of the reason, but I think that the major reason is so you can be easily found if you owe backed taxes, a suspect in a cr
      • Do people have or should have the right to live anonymously? I say yes but I'm sure there are a lot of people who would disagree.

        Actually, offhand the only people I can think of who would disagree are those who want power over others, power for power's sake and would deny people the right to live anonymously for no other reason.

        People have the right to live anonymously. Governments, however, will always consider those living anonymously, those 'outside the loop' to be threats to their power. Can't have

    • It's legal to sell it because there is no law prohibiting you from selling what you're prohibited from having.
      Now the problem is that the FBI is supporting these groups by buying stuff from them, rather than using the stuff they(FBI) bought from them(DataBroker) as evidence in a case to crimially proscecute them(DataBroker).
  • by spidergoat2 (715962) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:47AM (#15569199) Journal
    I can give them a better deal that the folks they're buying it from now. It's always fresher if you get it straight from the source.
  • by Visaris (553352) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @10:50AM (#15569223) Journal
    This all comes down to what you are scared of and who you trust.

    Are you actually worried that a terrorist is going to kill you? Are you really concerned about the dealers on the corner selling drugs or the kids next door smoking pot? What is it you are afraid of and why? Does the government need personal information on millions of americans to fight what you are most afraid of?

    When I think about these questions I can answer them pretty quickly. I am more worried about being killed in a car crash than being blown away by terrorists. I don't care what people shoot/smoke/snort as long as they do it on their own property. What am I most afraid of? The government's reactionary and arbitrary laws. The government certainly doesn't need to know personal information about millions of american's to stay the fuck out of my life.

    What I see is the USA spending 30 mil on things I'm not concerned about when they could have put it into education, public transportation, food for the poor, social-security, research, etc, etc. But the question needs to be asked: Why does the goverment want to spy on americans? Because the majority of the american publics wants the government to. Most american's want the government to tell gays they can't marry. Most people don't want grandpa to be allowed to smoke a bowl before going to bed. Most people want to fine radio and TV stations for making certain vibrations in the air!

    Most people cannot handle freedom and they want someone else to tell then what they can and cannot do. We need to fix the people more than we need to fix the government.
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:02AM (#15569332) Journal

      This all comes down to what you are scared of and who you trust.

      Scared of: unfettered Government, people with criminal intent, and the day there's a knock on my door and they tell me that because one of my genes is linked to future terorist behavior, I'm being preventatively detained.

      Who I trust: Myself, my wife, the most immediate members of my family, my best friend and his family and nobody else I don't know inside and out.

      Most people cannot handle freedom and they want someone else to tell then what they can and cannot do. We need to fix the people more than we need to fix the government.

      I agree. I'm suggesting we "fix" anybody with an IQ lower than 100. Letting them breed is a bad idea.

      People are people; many have more than a few brain cells to rub together, they just haven't been trained to use them. That is indeed the fault of the educational system, which is run by the states (bad idea) and has no cohesion or standardization. We're spending so much time on helping children develop their feelings, that while they are very in touch with themselves, they haven't got the common sense of a kangaroo rat. They do stupid things like believe the guy on the other end of the IM "wants to be their friend"; then they grow up and believe "the government is only doing its job."

      THe solution is simple: Americans need to take back their government, put people in positions of authority with some common sense and foresight, and teach kids to read, write, do math and take responsibility for themselves and their actions.

    • Are you actually worried that a terrorist is going to kill you?

      I live just outside of DC, and watched the pentagon burn, and as a matter of fact - if not for a scheduling fuckup, I very well could have not only been in the building, but in the newly rebuilt com center (where the plane hit). I spend most of my time on site in government buildings or police departments, which are probably the target for attacks.. So, kinda.

      Are you really concerned about the dealers on the corner selling drugs

      Yes, they carr
      • Yes, they carry guns and every night theres a report of some kid being shot in a drug deal gone bad, or someone caught in the crossfire. If you're so cavalier about it, I can show you some real cheap real estate in DC or Baltimore. The police are afraid to go there at night, for fuck sakes.

        This is a good example of the real problem. The government is spending money buying records when they know EXACTLY where the criminals are. Why don't they spend the $30Million cleaning up the areas of DC and Baltimor
        • This is a good example of the real problem. The government is spending money buying records when they know EXACTLY where the criminals are. Why don't they spend the $30Million cleaning up the areas of DC and Baltimore that the the police are afraid to go into.

          Because then they would be doing someone else's job. It's up the police departments of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to clean up crime on their streets. If they need more money, they need to petition their local governments for more and then the l

          • Because then they would be doing someone else's job.

            Ahhh, bureaucracy. So instead of putting money where it could actually be used to stop crime the bureaucrats keep it and spend it.
        • Why don't they spend the $30Million cleaning up the areas of DC and Baltimore that the the police are afraid to go into.

          Because they're not willing to hire & train all the people that they would need to have a properly-functioning infrastructure, just like their reasoning for not hiring enough teachers for a properly-functioning educational system ("they" being the people in charge of handing out the govt money).

          Among the problems that they see:

          • Hiring & training enough people takes lots of money
          • The same people responsible for hating to pay for education & public-safety seem to be quite happy giving up tax-money to build prisons though.

            Thing is, I hate to pay taxes not because I don't think these things need improvment, but because the government seems to constantly waste money. This is a prime example. Our government is more worried about enforcing copyright, spying on it's own citizens, fighting a war in Iraq and making sure gays don't get married, stoping public smoking and primarily wa
    • is the almost total trust people have in our government in other areas. For example, you don't want the government to have access to your phone records, but you have no problem with them telling your child what to think (if you don't think federal funding of education gives any control over what your child learns in school, think again), or no problem with the government holding all the guns, or no problem with the government being the only person who can pay your doctor.

      I don't, of course, know that yo

      • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:38AM (#15569673) Journal

        I have a friend who is very much anti-Bush. This is a man who sees real reasons to mistrust Bush. He is suspicious of our president on every count. This is a good thing. I think Bush has shown himself untrustworthy in many areas. Yet this same friend wants to give over his family's health care into his (and his cronies') hands. He wants to give this government control over who gets to do business with him and how they do business. I just don't get it.

        But you can extend such arguments back to any President you choose. Would we have had a 9/11 if Clinton had actually ordered the missile strike on Bin Laden, instead of being overly concerned about the political repercussions in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal? Just how much did Reagan know about selling arms to the Contra Rebels? Why did Kennedy feel compelled to launch the Bay of Pigs invasion when it would have been easier to simply bide his time and have Castro assassinated?

        No President can be trusted wholly, even if everybody voted for him. Same holds for Congress. The power that these people get exposed to is intoxicating. When you sit at the highest peak, and the functioning of the country turns on the decisions you make, how hard is it to resist the urge to put your own personal predilections into play and shape the country as you see fit? Pretty hard, I imagine. It was just this kind of thing George Washington feared when he stepped down as President.

        • Why did Kennedy feel compelled to launch the Bay of Pigs invasion..

          Puuhlease, JFK did not launch the Bay of Pigs invasion --- it was the Dulles boys --- who were sacked along with the deputy director of the CIA (you know, that brother of the then-mayor of Dallas who suddenly ordered a different route for JFK's motorcade on the day of his assassination??). Please do no historic revisionism on my watch!!

          It was widely reported at that time as to the number of CIA acts of sabotage against agricultural and fo

      • Differences (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tony (765) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:47AM (#15569737) Journal
        The reason a lot of us want the government to pay for health care is simple: 16% of Americans have no health care at all.

        The reason a lot of us want increased federal spending for education is simple: there is huge inequity in school funding. The system was designed so that poorer people got poorer education, and richer people got much better education. It's part of the American class structure. (Off-topic: our education system is fucked from the get-go. We need a massive overhaul of our education system, from kiddy-garden up to the hallowed halls of the greatest University. We need a variety of schools, and we need equity between schools. There is a direct correlation between education and success in life.)

        The great thing about both of these ideas is this: they can be monitored. Watched. Observed. And they can both be implemented by cutting our military spending in half. Granted, that would only give us a military budget three time greater than China, the second largest military spender. And maybe we'd only be spending more than the next 6 nations combined, rather than the next 14.

        And these new programs could be monitored.

        The expanded power Bush has granted himself was done without oversight. It was done without consent, or review, or even knowledge of others whom it affected. They did it in secrecy, which indicates they knew it was wrong. Bush has proven more than untrustworthy. He has betrayed America, and the world. And the worst part is, the same people who got their panties in a twist over a blow-job in the oval office are sitting by silently, like they are sports fans who support their team through even the worst losing streak.

        This is a far cry from the desire to see everyone have access to basic medical care, or have the opportunity for a decent education. It doesn't require trust in the government. It just requires the recognition that something is deperately wrong in this country.

        Oh, and the only gun control I'm for is the ability to accurately hit your mark.
        • Thank you for the well-thought-out response. I think, though, that there are some problems with it. I don't know how fundamental these are, but I think they are important:

          1. If there was no oversight to the powers Bush has amassed to himself, and it was done totally in secret, then how do we know about it? This is the least of my problems with your statement, because of the difference between having to seek it out and being told. Kind of nit-picky. And dumb. I know.

          2. Oversight of these new progra

        • Re:Differences (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kadin2048 (468275)
          Run for office, and I might just vote for you. I used to be a Republican, but that was back when that party actually stood for something tangible. Now I just vote for whichever guy is going to let me stay armed while the country goes to hell in a handbasket, and requires me to pay the least amount of taxes necessary into our broken system.

          I probably wouldn't be so averse to paying taxes if I actually trusted the people I elected not to waste it, but I've yet to see someone on the ballot (at anything more th
          • For that reason, somehow I suspect I'll always be voting for the "sucks least" candidate.

            (Insert "Cthulhu For President" reference here.)
      • By your reasoning, those that advocate the use of paper money are placing unfounded trust in their government. After all, even if you're an advocate of the gold standard, you're forced to trust that the government will give you $1 of gold if you trade in a $1 bill. If you don't believe in the gold standard, you're an even bigger government loving hippy, since the entire value of US currency is based on faith in the government.

        There are a whole heap of services for which government must exist, and the very
    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:30AM (#15569608)
      in short, yes, anyone with half a brain is scared MORE of their government than their fellow citizens.

      I'll even include non-citizens in there. I feel my gov more than any other society, culture or creed.

      the US was setup on the principle that the gov isn't trustable and check and balances were installed for this. what has become of our c/b system, though? all whittled away for our 'war on drugs'. ooops, we lost that one. I mean 'war on terror'. yeah, that's the real war (rolls eyes).

      people, wake up. the REAL war is from the gov against its own citizens.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:09AM (#15569388)
    http://www.gregpalast.com/massacre-of-the-buffalo- soldiers#more-1418 [gregpalast.com]

    "African-American Soldiers Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List"

    "A confidential campaign directed by GOP party chiefs in October 2004 sought to challenge the ballots of tens of thousands of voters in the last presidential election, virtually all of them cast by residents of Black-majority precincts." ...

    "Here's how the scheme worked: The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes marked, "Do not forward", to be returned to the sender. These letters were mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home addresses. The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as "undeliverable."

    "The lists of soldiers of "undeliverable" letters were transmitted from state headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could then challenge the voters' registration and thereby prevent their absentee ballots being counted." ....

    "The BBC obtained several dozen confidential emails sent by the Republican's national Research Director and Deputy Communications chief, Tim Griffin to GOP Florida campaign chairman Brett Doster and other party leaders. Attached were spreadsheets marked, "Caging.xls." Each of these contained several hundred to a few thousand voters and their addresses.

    "A check of the demographics of the addresses on the "caging lists," as the GOP leaders called them indicated that most were in African-American majority zip codes."
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:11AM (#15569420) Homepage
    http://gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=502&row=0 [gregpalast.com]

    THE SPIES WHO SHAG US

      by Greg Palast

    I know you're shocked -- SHOCKED! -- that George Bush is listening in on all your phone calls. Without a warrant. That's nothing. And it's not news.

    This is: the snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the Administration's Homeland Security spy network and private companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to protect us from our government. You can call it the privatization of the FBI -- though it is better described as the creation of a private KGB.

    The leader in the field of what is called "data mining," is a company called, "ChoicePoint, Inc," which has sucked up over a billion dollars in national security contracts.

    Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain't nothing. You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration. Five years ago, I discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data files on Americans -- and I know they've expanded their ops at an explosive rate.

    They are paid to keep an eye on you -- because the FBI can't. For the government to collect this stuff is against the law unless you're suspected of a crime. (The law in question is the Constitution.) But ChoicePoint can collect it for "commercial" purchases -- and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading of the Patriot Act -- our domestic spying apparatchiks can then BUY the info from ChoicePoint. ...

    ****

    It's worth reading, that and Choicepoint's responses. Palast (American with a BBC broadcast) has an entire chapter on the subject called "Double Cheese with Fear" in his book on the subject, "Armed Madhouse".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:19AM (#15569500)
    "Legal experts said law enforcement agencies would be permitted to use illegally obtained information from private parties without violating the Fourth Amendment's protection against unlawful search and seizure, as long as police did not encourage any crimes to be committed"
    Would just love to see them try to use any of this court, by the simple fact that they are paying for illegally obtained information they are encouraging crimes to be committed

    Also, as it is illegally obtained information, could very easyly be clasified as something simerlar as "recieving stolen goods"

    Americans really needs to wake up to their information being sold left and right and get real laws to put a stop to it....and also stop giving it out to anyone who asks
  • by jdgeorge (18767) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:21AM (#15569514)
    The problem is that anyone can buy this information. Of course it's disgraceful that the government is using illegal or questionably legal means to gether information, but it's even more outrageous that anyone at all with a modest stack of cash can get this information.

    What if someone holding a grudge against you decided to avail themselves of these services? Anyone here been involved in an acrimonious legal proceeding?
  • by 99luftballon (838486) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:25AM (#15569542)
    This is regrettably another in a long line of cases where government gets around the checks and balances in the system by getting third parties to do it - usually at extortionate rates. See also the use of Halliburton to replace the US Army engineers and the hiring of Blackwater USA as a form of 'Mercenaries R Us.'
  • by eck011219 (851729) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:44AM (#15569723)
    So can we now use the Freedom of Information Act to request this data legally?
  • Public Aloofness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @11:56AM (#15569804)
    It's amazing that in a consumer driven society the people with the most influence rarely effect a change as often as they bitch about it. It's not difficult to understand why this happens though. Even I would rather go snowboarding then march to washington and line Pennsylvania Avenue with fancy signs and flaming bags of poo.

    I do vote though and write my congressmen about important issues -- which should be enough to effect a change IF more people would do the same.

    Life is very much about competition, and crafty companies and governments hoard information and dish out only what they want you to hear. But then again, I bet you do the same thing on a personal level too. Only someone without self-preservation would share the same information with his or her boss AND coworkers AND spouse AND surley DMV worker, et al. Of course, companies and governments can do this on a larger scale and with a greater effect than you can, but it is the same thing and can be just as damaging. Granted there IS a difference between Ford's Pinto fiasco and not telling Jane Rottencrotch that you just gave her herpes, but just look through your local newspaper if you want real-world examples. But I digress...

    In a society where people don't need to make any sacrifices -- EVEN DURING A WAR -- it's not surprising that the US public has slowly let companies collect more and more information. Whether you look at marketing companies, software EULAs, the actions of the RIAA or phone companies, or even the US Government, the story is basically the same: take without asking and check if anybody notices. Repeat.

    Nobody wants to give a few minutes out of their schedules to pay attention or care about any sort of accountability. Data brokers have been operating legally for quite some time now, but I doubt public opinion of them has changed. They were bad news when they started and they're still bad news today. Perhaps more people know about them today, but does that mean more people will do something about them? It's OK as long as it's not in my backyard.

    Instead of being shocked and annoyed that the US Government would utilize information from legal data mining companies, realize that: your fellow citizens do it to each other every day, and that you do have the power to do something about it.

    It's almost noon. I need to finish my beer and get back to Langley.
    • "In a society where people don't need to make any sacrifices -- EVEN DURING A WAR "

      We're at a state of war? Someone should really notify the UN since as of yet the US has not made an official declaration of war as of this point. This war is as legit as the "war on drugs". And uses many similar scare tactics to boot.

  • Everybody knows that government is important, and necessary to provide services that people themselves are too stupid to provide.

    Finally someone has bought personal data, something that people themselves would never have done with their hard-earned money.

    Hooray for government, the group of wise, good, virtuous people that holds the Unites States of America (and other countries) together!!!
    • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @12:14PM (#15569984) Journal

      Everybody knows that government is important, and necessary to provide services that people themselves are too stupid to provide.

      Actually, our government is there to provide for common services that no individual, group, of individuals, city, or state can provide. I certainly can't defend the United States against a terrorist attack or attack by missiles from North Korea by myself. I've entrusted the Federal Government to provide for my defense, to hopefully provide some kind of retirement if I can't doit for myself, and to make sure the infrastructure of this country operates so that I can go about my daily tasks without having to worry if there will be roads, electricity, etc.

      That said, the current structure of our Federal government is inadequate to the task. It's not about what's good for all Americans, but what's good for legislators and their cronies, on both sides of the aisle. Our Founding Fathers had the right idea, but they could not forsee the changes that would take place in technology and culture all over the world. But they did leave us an out: the ability to change and amend the Constitution to take into account these changes. I've said it for many years now: what this country needs is a Constitutional Convention, to bring the Constitution more up-to-date and to iron out inequities in the system.

  • Scratch my back... 'n stuff.
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @01:08PM (#15570440) Homepage
    The very ones who Congress is trying to put out of business
    While the Legislative branch is trying to put these people out of business, the Executive branch is outsourcing data-collection to them. Very interesting. Very Constitutional...
  • Ignorance is Bliss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vldragon (981127) on Tuesday June 20, 2006 @01:31PM (#15570630)
    "If it's on the Internet and it's been commended to us, we wouldn't do a full-scale investigation," Marshal's Service spokesman David Turner said. "We don't knowingly go into any source that would be illegal. We were not aware, I'm fairly certain, what technique was used by these subscriber services."

    Since when did "I didn't know it was illegal" become an acceptable response?

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