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Government Privacy United States Your Rights Online

TSA Nominee's Snooping Raises Privacy Concerns 134

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Erroll Southers, President Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws. Southers accepted full responsibility for a 'grave error in judgment' when he accessed confidential criminal records twenty years ago about his then-estranged wife's new boyfriend. Southers's admission that he was involved in a questionable use of law enforcement background data has been a source of concern among civil libertarians, who believe the TSA performs a delicate balancing act in tapping into passenger information to find terrorists while also protecting citizens' privacy."
"In his letter to key senators on November 20, Southers said he simply forgot the circumstances of the searches, which occurred in 1987 and 1988 after he grew worried about his wife and their son, who had begun living with the boyfriend. 'During a period of great personal turmoil, I made a serious error in judgment by using my official position with the FBI to resolve a personal problem,' Southers wrote. Civil liberties specialists say that the misuse of databases has been common among law enforcement authorities for many years, despite an array of local, state and federal prohibitions intended to protect personal information. Studies have found that police at every level examine records of celebrities, women they have met and political rivals. 'I am distressed by the inconsistencies between my recollection and the contemporaneous documents, but I assure you that the mistake was inadvertent, and that I have at all times taken full responsibility for what I know to have been a grave error in judgment,' Southers added."
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TSA Nominee's Snooping Raises Privacy Concerns

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  • What's worse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:03PM (#30616512)

    The fact that he used the police database to get revenge on his ex-wife, or the fact that he tried to mislead Congress about what he actually did?

    Now he's saying his original statement that he asked someone else to do the search for him was wrong, that he actually did the searching himself, twice. Voters are getting tired of government officials who conveniently forget facts.

  • Re:Lets vote... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:09PM (#30616540)
    ...And a republic can only work when there are many third-parties to choose from and allow your voice to be heard. A democrat isn't going to speak for all democrats and a republican isn't going to speak for all republicans. That is why an electoral system allowing and encouraging third parties is so important. For example, many democrats aren't really "democrats" at all, but would fit under either a libertarian democrat, green party, or centrist. Similarly many republicans may be more libertarians than republicans, or lean more towards interventionism.

    The ability for there to be third parties also lets voters more accurately decide who they want without needing to be fully informed. With our current two party system, both Ron Paul (more of a libertarian than anything else) appears on the same party as John McCain (more of an interventionist)
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:11PM (#30616552) Homepage

    I'm sure others will point out that this guy has a history of abusing his position for personal reasons. He will therefore be watched by various people including news people looking for a juicy story and even the appearance of impropriety will likely result in some sort of story.

    I think that abuse of position and power is par for the course. If he does it and is discovered, it would be a huge disgrace to him, his office and the one who appointed him. On the other hand, if he resists the urge or is simply very successful at being sneaky, then maybe it's all for the best somehow.

  • Nothing new here... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @07:12PM (#30616992)
    "Person in power believes rules don't apply to self, changes mind when caught." - Film at 11.

    If more people respected or even cared about the spirit - heck, letter - of the law (or morality) instead of their personal wants, desires, and goals, we'd all be better off. Would the recent near-collapse of the banking industry have happened if the guys at AIG or Goldman-Sachs cared about the ramifications of their greed on others - and by "others" I mean "us", not the other bastards on Wall Street.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday January 01, 2010 @08:17PM (#30617462) Homepage

    I'm absolutely certain that this story coming out right now has absolutely nothing to do with digging through Mr Southers' entire life story to come up with some dirt on him that will give Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) political cover for leaving the TSA with no director for nearly a year. I mean, one might almost think that the real problem with this guy was that he was open to the possibility of TSA workers unionizing [].

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