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OneDOJ to Offer National Criminal Database to Law Enforcement 184

Posted by Zonk
from the you-can-run-but-you-can't-hide dept.
Degrees writes "The Washington Post is reporting that the Justice Department is building a massive database, known as 'OneDOJ'. The system allows state and local police officers around the country to search millions of case files from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies. The system already holds approximately 1 million case records and is projected to triple in size over the next three years. The files include investigative reports, criminal-history information, details of offenses, and the names, addresses and other information of criminal suspects or targets. From the article: 'Civil-liberties and privacy advocates say the scale and contents of such a database raise immediate privacy and civil rights concerns, in part because tens of thousands of local police officers could gain access to personal details about people who have not been arrested or charged with crimes. The little-noticed program has been coming together over the past year and a half. It already is in use in pilot projects with local police in Seattle, San Diego and a handful of other areas, officials said.'"
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OneDOJ to Offer National Criminal Database to Law Enforcement

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  • About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Salvance (1014001) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @11:43AM (#17398630) Homepage Journal
    I actually think this is a great thing. It always seemed ridiculous to me that law enforcement might need to spend hours/days retrieving data from other agencies in criminal proceedings.
  • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) on Friday December 29, 2006 @11:49AM (#17398702) Homepage
    If all it was was linking criminal databases between localities, that would be one thing. Clearly, the ability to see if someone has a criminal record and/or a warrant out for his arrest in another state is valuable information. However, tracking other sorts of data on people, even when they have not been charged or convicted of anything, as the summary seems to suggest, is a whole different kettle of fish.
  • Useful Cause (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jmickle (941634) on Friday December 29, 2006 @11:52AM (#17398740)
    This surely could have a useful cause to see if people are wanted criminals in other states. Also can cut down the time for the feds to figure out what to do with you. It is ridiculous how it does take up to weeks just to pull a case number from a simple case. Consolidation seems to be the key here! hope they have a good redundant backup system :-P (anyone see record clearing coming soon? )
  • Problematic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiritraveller (641174) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:09PM (#17398920)
    The files include investigative reports, criminal-history information, details of offenses, and the names, addresses and other information of criminal suspects or targets.

    The big problem I see with this is that it encourages local police to target people (someone who gets pulled over for speeding) on the assumption that if the Feds investigated them, then they must be criminals. I tell all of my DUI clients that if they have been convicted once of DUI, they should never ever drive within ten hours of drinking ANY alcohol for the rest of their lives. The reason is that every time they get pulled over, the cop will see that conviction and will look very hard for evidence of drinking.

    But this database has more than just arrest and conviction records. So it is going to cause heightened suspicion and prejudicial treatment of people who have never committed a crime in their lives.

    If they can't get enough evidence to convict you or even to arrest you, then how reliable could their information be?

    I see little reason for them to be sharing this information on a large scale with local police departments, except that it does give them the power to insert negative information about political activists who some anonymous person in the FBI may not like.

    This is certainly not good for civil liberties, and I question its value for fighting crime.
  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:10PM (#17398926)

    When I was in college in the early 1970's, I participated in the Students for a Democratic Socciety (SDS). I was involved in the Boston area, and helped The Socialist Workers Party do a radio show on the MIT and Northeastern Univ. radio stations there. Some years later I did a Freedom of Information Act request for any FBI stuff. A bunch of it came back, primarily from my activities with the radio show. Now, remember, nothing I did was illegal or even immoral. Nor was I charged with any crime or even ever contacted by the FBI. All this was doe secretly without my knowledge.

    I have a real problem with any bored local police officer sitting in his cruiser anywhere to be able to simply type in my name and get information about me from over 30 years ago! Frankly, it's none of their business!. Something similar to this actually has already happened to me. I was driving a car I had just bought with my old plates attached (perfectly legal in Massachusetts for 48 hours provided you have the bill of sale, etc.). I stopped for gas and when I came back from paying a cop was there who wanted to know why my plate number came up with a different car. Turns out he was bored and so he begain typing in license plates of nearby cars int his terminal in the cruiser. What's to stop him turning around and typing my name (which he got from the license plate) into the FBI search?

    This gives the cops WAY too much information and power to pry into our private affairs!!

    All in the cause of TERRORISM, of courser!! :(

  • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:12PM (#17398954)
    However, tracking other sorts of data on people, even when they have not been charged or convicted of anything, as the summary seems to suggest, is a whole different kettle of fish.

    You know the saying amongt traffic patrol officers: "follow someone long enough and he's bound to commit a traffic violation". Well, same thing with OneDOJ: collect enough information about someone and you're bound to find something to incriminate this person eventually.

    Incidentally (and cutting short the Godwin Law), this is exactly what the Gestapo was doing prior to, and during WW2: they collected huge masses of information about everybody, and it was well know that they could pull a jacket on almost anybody in Germany and find enough "evidence" to arrest that person.
  • by End Program (963207) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:14PM (#17398978)
    While I applaud the effort to improve the efficiency of law enforcement, I am concerned about unintended consequences.

    One advantage of the old system was a built in forgiveness factor. Someone who had a checked past could clean up their life and move forward in life. Any headaches dealing with the system bias and mistakes would eventually become less important over time as records were destroyed or lost.

    Now, you will have one central database where every legal detail on your life could be contained. What happens to impulsive individuals to get in a little trouble when they young?

    Will they have a record following them around the rest of their lives? I guess your high school teacher was right when they said, "This is going on your permanent record!"
  • WHEEEEE!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rawtatoor (560209) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:14PM (#17398984) Journal
    Is everyone enjoying the ride down the slippery slope?
  • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:26PM (#17399112) Homepage Journal

    The USSC has already established that local, state and federal government can accumulate information on people when it feels that such accumulation is in its interests, and further, that it can expose that information to the public, making a complete mockery of any idea of privacy.

    The precedent was set using sex offenders and in particular, those sex offenders who had been convicted prior to the instantiation of the registry laws. Forcing those individuals to be on those lists was ruled "not punishment" and hence not subject to ex post facto as laid out in the constitution and subsequent court decisions.

    Now the government can list anyone, anytime, on any list it likes, and there is nothing US citizens can do. Other lists have been showing up and causing trouble such as the no-fly list. Nothing anyone can do about that, either. Lists aren't a bad thing, according to every branch of the government.

    The fact is, when US citizens gave up those freedoms to hand that little extra bit of crucifixion to sex offenders, you gave it up for everyone else, too. US citizens should have screamed bloody murder at the registry laws, you should have screamed bloody murder at any attempt at ex post facto punishment, and you should have screamed bloody murder at the USSC's ridiculous decision that "registry" is a local, state and federal interest.

    The dead, smug silence at the fate of the sex offender - and the "terrorist" - has led the USA to a pitiful shadow of the freedom it once stood for. Sophistry has undermined ex post facto, habeas corpus, the commerce clause, the 2nd amendment, freedom of speech, and now... now you're worried about the feds sharing information. Good luck climbing back up that slope.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:43PM (#17399358) Homepage Journal
    If someone chooses to break the laws governing the citizenry, they are then rejecting the citizenry. Does that mean that they are no longer citizens? Socrates felt so, as outlined in Plato's The Apology of Socrates.

    The problem with creating a permanent criminal class is that there is no possibility of redemption or reform. The only reasonable path is to have two, and only two, classes of crimes. The unredeemable, in which case imprisonment is life without parole, or death; and the redeemable, where the criminal's debt to society is considered 100% paid upon completion of the assigned punishment or rehabilitative course.

    By releasing people back into society who have no hope of ever climbing out of the gutter, we continually increase a class of people who not only can do us harm, but have already proven they will, and who are motivated, by us, to do it ( or something else criminal) again. The motivation is simple: We won't let them do anything else.

    Today, a background check is considered normal in order to get a job. This includes your criminal records, if any. If you have a criminal record, you're not going to get any job for which there is competition (in other words, most of them.) You're a permanent criminal, unredeemable, permanently evil and a bottom-feeder.

  • Security (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aarenz (1009365) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:45PM (#17399386)
    If the DOJ can secure it so that only valid law enforcement users can access the system, it will be fine. I am sure that most of the data that is in the system is not admissable in court, so they would have to track down the real evidence and not be able to use invalid data that was put into a database of information. It may point the finger at someone, but they will not be convicted based on wrong information in a DOJ file.
  • Re:About time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yoder (178161) * <progressivepenguin@gmail.com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:01PM (#17399606) Homepage Journal
    That seems to be the ultimate objective with those in power. Keep track of everyone everywhere and you will find that everyone is a criminal of some sort. Those in power can better control their people when they have leverage.

    Citizen Joe Smoe: "Senator Longbottom, I am a voter and concerned citizen and would like you to vote against this upcoming legislation that will further erode our privacy."

    Senator Longbottom: "You know, I would give this privacy concern of yours more of my time, but hey, you illegally downloaded three songs this year and you have a pirated copy of Windows 98. You're a criminal and you want me to defend your privacy? Give me a break."
  • by martyb (196687) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:34PM (#17400044)

    Sigh. I don't know where to begin.

    First off, I understand there is some not insignificant value to this idea. The concept of making it easier for law enforcement to gather already available information on a suspect is quite laudable. It bothers me when I hear of how a suspect in a "major investigation" was actually picked up on an unrelated offense, and let go, because the arresting officers were unaware of the other outstandings on the person. It would be nice if we could stop this from happening. In fact, I'm sure many lives could be saved. If I had a loved one who was murdered, and then found out that law enforcement had actually captured the suspect beforehand, AND LET HIM GO, you can bet I'd be outraged. But is this proposal the right way to go about it? What is the REAL COST to you and to me. Not just in dollars and cents, but also in our freedoms as citizens.

    My concern is more with the implications and implementations of this concept, and how easily it can be abused.

    Data Quality: People have been known to not give their correct name to the police. Some people have used multiple names (aliases, AKA, etc.) Further, given that even touch-typists will occasionally make typographical errors (and not everyone is a touch-typist, either), I can forsee a not-insignificant amount of "bad" data finding its way into the system. Someone with a name similar to mine commits an offense, but gets recorded UNDER MY NAME. See: false-positives (Type I error) and flase-negatives (Type II error) here: Type I and type II errors [wikipedia.org].

    • They may not find this person when they go looking for his info - because it's NOT under his name.
    • They might find this person's offense(s) should they go looking under my name - say, for a minor traffic offense.

    Feed the Database: If it's so benign, I want to see a requirement that they seed the database with information on EVERY SINGLE FEDERAL AND STATE OFFICIAL. President of the USA, every senator, representative, judge, police officer, sheriff, District Attorney, etc. If your wage is paid by our taxes, then your info gets loaded into their system automatically. If there is an uproar about doing this for THEM, then maybe they should not be doing it to US. Got to stamp out any possible corruption, yanno? Besides, if you have done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide. Right?

    Log EVERY access: CRUD - Create, Read, Update, Delete. Storage is cheap. Log EVERY SINGLE time the data is accessed complete with the date, time, source IP, accessor's name (See the Feed the Database, above, what was requested, etc. If what you are doing with the database is on the up-and-up, then you have nothing to hide. Log it.

    Prosecute Abuse of the System: Run analyses every single day to seek out abuse of the system. And Prosecute Them. Publicize The Prosecutions. Enter the prosecutions into the system. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Data Validation and Correction: It's going to happen. Some data is going to be inaccurate. (Consider the problems that exist with the accuracy of people's credit reports. And the difficulties, effort, and cost involved in getting those mistakes rectified.) How can I:

    1. Get access to the information they have on me?
    2. Contest its accuracy?
    3. Ensure corrections are applied?

    Looking ahead: Data storage costs are coming down. Some localities have ever-present video cameras recording all activity in their purview. I can imagine a time when advanced techniques exist to go searching through these archives looking for, extracting, and logging the identities and activities of all within their field of view (face recognition, scene analyses, cell phone GPS, etc.) Combine all these streams and extracts into a central DB and one can easily go trolling for perps.

    So, in short, I can see some good intentions behind this. Quite laudable in fact. But, I am NOT convinced this is a good idea, never mind whether or not they can come up with a good implementation.

  • Re:About time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:39PM (#17400120) Journal

    Yes. I wish the public would get this. We're all criminals! To add someone to the database just find something and convict the, For the few who have managed to avoid breaking any of the multitude of laws (and how do you know you haven't there are so many), the laws will just continue to be piled up until there's something you will break whether its criminalising the smoking of relaxing substances or using a PGP key that hasn't been registered with the government. When needed, you will be a criminal. You may not even need to be convicted. There are thousands of DNA samples preserved by the UK police of people who were never convicted of anything and their names are on the police database.

    And sepearate to the information on the crimes you may or may not have committed could be a lot of personal information that you may not wish to be searchable by the huge number of people that have access to this.
  • Re:About time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @04:36PM (#17402422) Homepage Journal
    On the plus side, the sex offender registry has been so damaged by abuse (adding scores of people who aren't dangerous, or even "sex" offenders), it will soon be to the point where there's no shame being on the list.

    Ouch. This isn't a plus side. Shame, or at least remorse, is appropriate. For a reasonable length of time. Not a lifetime. In any case, the problem is that someone on these lifetime lists can't re-integrate into society, not because of shame, but because when there is a choice between two candidates for a job, the sex offender is always going to be cast aside. Even in your example, this will happen. Pissed on a neighbor's car? And the other applicant didn't? They're getting the job - not you. What we end up with is a reserve of people who cannot, under any circumstances, recover from the punishment they have received and re-integrate with society. This hammers them, their families, and eventually will turn around and bite society when someone who has been wronged in this way turns around and deals punishment back to the system, probably in more than equal measure.

    Mark my words, it is as inevitable as water flowing downhill.

  • by homeslice3 (208776) <blonardo@gmail.com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:10PM (#17403554) Homepage
    is the accuracy of them and how they deal with individual state laws regarding protection and destruction of data. I personally have no problem with these databases - ALL of the information in them are in the public record - except case information that is sealed by a judge.

    One issue of concern would be and example where I get busted at 17 for a petty crime - do my probation and some community service and have my record expunged. As far as the State is concerned, my record is now clean and the arrest shouldn't appear anywhere. The state system, by law, has to actually destroy both the paper record of the case and any data trails in the local case management systems.

    What doesn't happen, I'm afraid, is when the FBI or Justice department grabs data via an exchange - it's not cleaning up or even being able to know about the expunged action - they just grab whatever they get and add it to the pile of stuff they transform - it's just has an old record of a closed or completed case.

    Another issue is sealed cases - or cases that have been exchanged with these databases, THEN sealed at a later date, or has information about minors in it, or financial data in it (i.e. a divorce case might have bank records, ssn's and so forth). The intent of adding notes and other stuff to a docket for example is to help the judge, and any other official manage the case - what's not considered is the downstream effect of this (ie the document is scanned and it's added as a blob to the case record, then exchanged with a foreign system.

    I see a big backlash coming, much like medical records and privacy in the legal realm - I agree that giving officers in the field all the data they need is critical, but there needs to be updates to rules and regs about how this stuff is used and what exactly can be exchanged now that the data won't merely live in the original systems and safeguarded by disinterested parties (the nerds who manage the statewide court systems) vs those who have a financial or other reason to be interested in the data.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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