A document entitled: Executive Order: Further Strengthening the Sharing of Terrorism Information to Protect Americans lays out what look like some far-reaching changes to government information design and information sharing policy. It says:
To the maximum extent consistent with applicable law, agencies shall, in the design and use of information systems and in the dissemination of information among agencies:
(a) give the highest priority to (i) the detection, prevention, disruption, preemption, and mitigation of the effects of terrorist activities against the territory, people, and interests of the United States of America; (ii) the interchange of terrorism information among agencies; (iii) the interchange of terrorism information between agencies and appropriate authorities of State, local, and tribal governments, and between agencies and appropriate private sector entities; and (iv) the protection of the ability of agencies to acquire additional such information;
Beyond the privacy implications, what about the implications for federal IT?
But if you do use aggregate information for one purpose (preventing terrorism) how do you prevent that information being used in other ways? After all, we live in the era of the remix and mashup. Information wants to be free.
There are so many questions that need answering. Not least who will scrutinize the scrutinizers, given that the new legislation seemingly includes every major US government organization
Secretaries of State, the Treasury, Defense, Commerce, Energy, and Homeland Security; the Attorney General; the Director of National Intelligence; the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center; and such other heads of departments or agencies as the Director of National Intelligence may designate.
except the Government Accountability Office.
I am somewhat worried about the current administration’s alleged use of smear tactics to take out political opponents, in light of this new legislation. We all screw up from time to time-maybe we let our legal license slip because we forget to pay the bill, or we forget to declare a payment we should, or we did something naughty at university. That is called ammunition.
Can we not imagine a scenario where it is deemed that a democrat taking office would represent an opportunity for terrorists, and thus must be avoided in in the national interest? I am certain there are plenty of people in Washington who would take that position in a heartbeat. So would information about the candidate, which weakened her position, be terrorism information? Who decides?
Another concern would the fact so few government services are now actually provided by the public sector. Private companies only have a responsibility to shareholders, not to the American Public, or that of other nations. Private companies in the information-sharing chain create a structural weak link.
One problem with trying to capture and digest too much information is it can lead to what I call Information Bulimia (defined here
). Just look at ChoicePoint.
I tried to keep a clear view when I read the document, and I make no bones about the fact I still have to go and cross-check a few other documents before coming to a final conclusion. I do however think this is an issue that we should at least think and talk about. So lets call it out.
What is and what is not “terrorism information” and how can it be defined? Now that’s a question to have the taxonomy and tagsonomy exponents arguing for years…
Information is power, and perhaps it is concentrated enough already. What do you think?