- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 16, 2002

Big Brother's computer

The Defense Department and the Pentagon are moving ahead to install a new computer system that can access personal information as part of the government's hunt for terrorists in the United States and worldwide. The system being proposed is the Total Information Awareness Program (TIAP).
While I am 100 percent behind President Bush in his attempt to have the Congress create the new Department of Homeland Security, I am concerned that a system such as the TIAP will allow access to information on banking transactions, telephone calling records, credit cards and finally e-mails on the Internet all without a search warrant.
For years, military and intelligence agencies were not permitted to spy on U.S. citizens without special legal authorization. This is about to change. The position of the Pentagon is that it needs broad new powers to be able to instantly process, analyze, store, recapture and coordinate private personal histories, information and records along with terrorist leads, etc., from all agencies.
The problem is that, in order to put such a system into service, Congress must amend the Privacy Act of 1974, which was intended to limit what the government could do with private information.
Before the government embarks on such a draconian measure, it would appear that the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard should adhere to already established laws and keep illegals and others of questionable activity out of the country by strict interpretation and enforcement of our laws.
The recent fiasco that took place off the east coast of Florida, allowing a boatload of illegal immigrants to reach our shores, is an example of agencies not doing their job.
If our nation ever had a "clear and present danger," it is now. The lax enforcement of laws and rules allows anyone to enter our country regardless of intent.
Do we need the Department of Homeland Security? We certainly do.
Do we need the proposed Total Information Awareness Program? I don't think so. Terrorists will quickly learn how to circumvent the system and avoid detection. The real losers will be law-abiding Americans who automatically become part of alleged terrorist surveillance, and each of us will lose our cherished civil liberties and rights. Not a good idea.

LOUIS C. RIPA
Ocean City, N.J.

Pelosi is left of left

The Democrats have ignored the adage that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging, and with the election of liberal Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the new House minority leader ("Pelosi to lead House Democrats," Page 1, yesterday), they've unwisely taken a wrong turn to the left.
After an election that saw Republicans gain seats in the House and Senate and a majority of state legislative seats for the first time since 1952, they have chosen a real "San Francisco Democrat" from a district that gave former Vice President Al Gore and Ralph Nader 85 percent of its vote during the 2000 presidential election.
She opposes prayer in school, vouchers to free inner-city children from failing schools, eliminating the marriage penalty tax and repealing the death tax. She is in favor of implementing the job-killing Kyoto Protocol, which lost in a Senate vote, 96-0. Not only did she vote against the Iraqi war authorization, but a decade ago she opposed the Persian Gulf War on the grounds that it would damage the environment. Mrs. Pelosi voted against the successful Welfare Reform Act of 1996.
She wants the federal government to offer marital status to any type of human relationship and voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states not to recognize homosexual marriages, calling it a "blatant act of discrimination." She supported revoking the Boy Scouts' charter.
Mrs. Pelosi supports abortion on demand at any time, for any reason. She has voted against a measure to outlaw partial-birth abortion. She voted against a bill that would outlaw transportation of minors across state lines for the purpose of obtaining an abortion unless it was to protect the girl's life. She voted against a bill that would have made it a federal crime to harm a fetus while committing any of 68 federal offenses.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI
Chicago

Editorial much too kind to Gephardt

I admired the effort to commend Richard Gephardt on his "steady hand and instinctive integrity" during his years in the House of Representatives ("Richard Gephardt he labored, but he never tired," Editorial, Tuesday). In fact, I empathized with the sentiment for a moment. Then I remembered briefly watching, on C-SPAN, a speech Mr. Gephardt gave at a Democratic fund-raiser just before the last election. He told members of the audience that they had "no idea" what it was like "to go to work every day with these guys," characterizing the Republicans in the House in ways so offensive that I turned him off. This is no "gallant and determined gentleman." He is a mean-spirited partisan who distorts the truth to his own advantage. I wouldn't turn my back on him for a minute.

GARY KANADY
Centreville<

An unfair shot at D.C. elections board

The purpose of this letter is to address unfounded points made in the editorial, "So many new voters in D.C." (Nov. 8). The Times has unfairly criticized the Board of Elections and Ethics and misstated facts about the District's voter roll.
The editorial misinformed readers when it stated that "61,000 people were added to the D.C. voter rolls between August and October." Furthermore, the editorial incorrectly reported that "In September, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics reported that there were only 301,593 registered voters." The board did nothing of the kind.
The board did report accurately that 301,593 voters were eligible to vote in the Sept. 10 primary election. Because the District has a closed primary system, only voters registered in one of the three major parties can vote in a primary election. Those parties are the Democratic, Republican and the D.C. Statehood Green.
At the time of the Sept. 10 primary, the board's official voter registration reported that there were 355,608 voters on the roll at the close of the voter registration period, which by law is always 30 days before an election.
The 355,608 voters on the roll as of Sept. 10 included not only 301,593 voters who were eligible to vote in the primary as voters registered with the Democratic, Republican or D.C. Statehood Green parties, but an additional 54,015 voters who were independents or were associated with other political parties and, therefore, were ineligible to vote in the primary. However, in contrast to the primary, in the general election all registered voters were eligible to vote, regardless of party affiliation.
The editorial correctly stated that there were 363,168 D.C. voters who were qualified to vote in the general election. That was an increase of 7,560 voters who registered between August and October, not, as the editorial claimed, 61,618.
The board recognizes the responsibility of The Times to criticize an agency such as ours should it fail to do its job properly. For the reasons set out above, the editorial's criticism of the board is without merit.

BENJAMIN F. WILSON
Chairman
D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics
Washington


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