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Panel Questions Government Data Sharing

Originally published November 10, 2004

A group of experts in technology policy and civil liberties pondered the problem of government information sharing recently and raised more questions than they answered, reported National Journal’s Technology Daily.

The panelists included Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Tim Edgar of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Kim Taipale of the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy. Dan Gallington of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies moderated the panel discussion, which was hosted by the Potomac Institute.

Aside from the current congressional debate about naming a national intelligence director and giving that person budgetary authority, one of the big elements of efforts to overhaul the intelligence system involves how information on terrorism-related activity can be collected, stored, accessed and shared across all levels of government.

In August, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that aimed to improve the information-sharing practices of the intelligence and homeland security communities. The order directs the attorney general, Homeland Security secretary and director of central intelligence to recommend "executive-branch-wide collection and sharing requirements, procedures and guidelines for terrorism information" from both publicly available sources and non-governmental databases.

At the forum, Dempsey said the recommendations should focus on particular suspicions that the government may have about individuals. For example, he suggested that law enforcement agencies and investigators should only have access to the identities of people in government databases of their investigations if they have probable cause to suspect those people of crimes.

Gallington said he rejected the idea that the executive order focuses on narrow solutions. Rather, he said he hopes the recommendations will involve some creative thinking and solutions to the issue of government-wide information sharing.

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