Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Know Your Customer . . . And Then Some

The New York Times has an editorial raising questions about the "Total Information Awareness" project. While this is often mentioned in the same breath as the Homeland Security Bill (it should be noted that the Times does not do this), as best as I can tell the TIA is already in existence, and is not dependent on the passage of the Homeland Security Bill. Even so, the TIA’s proposal to create dossiers on average Americans without reasonable suspicion, let alone probable cause, is enough to raise concerns.

This sort of data collection is just an extension of the "know your customer" provisions, which commandeer banks to reveal information about "suspicious activity" by customers. The controversial know your customer provision was expanded in the U.S.A. Patriot Act to include broker-dealers, presumably based upon information that the terrorists appear to have purchased a large number of "puts" (that is, they went short) on United and American Airlines before the September 11 bombing, in an attempt to profit from the predictable crash in the stock after the terrorism.

Americans have an admirable skepticism toward the collection of information about their activities by government agencies, or by anyone else for that matter. My sense is that an unrestricted ability on the part of the government to collect data will incense the population--even in these extraordinary times.

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