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Bush Admin demands more banking data

A piecemeal approach to Total Information Awareness

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The Bush Administration plans to extend its mighty neural networks to international banking in hopes of discovering terrorist activity, the New York Times reported in its Sunday edition.

The scheme would allow the US Treasury Department to maintain databases of international money transfers to and from the USA, creating an additional regulatory burden on banks struggling to comply with myriad regulations already imposed by the so-called "Patriot" Act.

The result of this additional data mining, the article suggests, will be a flood of largely irrelevant data to federal agencies already awash in irrelevant data. But the Administration's overall approach has been to get all the data it can now, and figure out how it might be used to catch terrorists later.

Since the Administration's grand schemes for monitoring the public's every move, such as the MATRIX and Total Information Awareness (TIA), fell into disrepute, it appears to be taking a piecemeal approach, building its surveillance society one step at a time.

We now have, or have in the works: biometric, RFID drivers' licenses following a federal standard with state motor vehicle databases linked electronically, as required by the Real-ID Act; biometric, RFID passports; bulk demands by the federal government for airline passenger records; the CAPPS - now called "Secure Flight" - airline data mining scheme; and banking and other financial data in federal hands, and enriched with personal data from retail privacy invaders like ChoicePoint.

All of these components can, and certainly will, be correlated, although the government hopes that the public will perceive them as discrete elements in the so-called war on terror, and not contemplate the eventual, cumulative effect of all this activity.

The public has rejected big gestures like TIA and MATRIX, but seems tolerant of incremental developments, like the new banking regulations now being worked out. With enough such steps, the TIA dream can be realized without public resistance. So far, it appears to be on track. ®

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