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Government not serious about privacy incursions by government workers ...

How can the government be serious about protecting the privacy of individuals whose information resides in government databases if they unwilling to demand non-negotiable jail time for those who improperly access government databases.

As we saw with Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Transportation Security Agency, Earl Southers, punishment for invading the privacy of United States Citizens by tapping into government databases is apparently not regarded as a major problem worthy of major punishment.

In the Southers case, it appears that Southers inappropriately accessed government databases to snoop on his ex-wife’s boyfriend. For this action, which could have been regarded as a crime, Southers received a censure by the FBI. The exact terms of the censure were not made available during the Senate confirmation process.

Now the AFP is reporting …

“US State Department clerk sentenced for passport peeking”

“A US State Department file clerk on Thursday was sentenced to 12 months' probation for illegally accessing dozens of confidential passport applications of movie actors, professional athletes and other celebrities.”

“The employee, Susan Holloman, 58, was also ordered by the judge in the case to perform 75 hours of community service.”

“Holloman, a file assistant at the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, admitted that between February 2007 and December 2007 she repeatedly logged on to the department's secure computer database and viewed passport applications belonging to some 70 celebrities and their families.”

“She acknowledged to prosecutors that she had no reason to access the passport applications, other than ‘idle curiosity,’ a State Department press release said.”

“The State Department said that the files are protected under law by the US Privacy Act.”

“Holloman is the ninth department worker to plead guilty to snooping into celebrities' passport records, with all of the employees sentenced so far receiving several months' probation and community service.”

Continuing pattern of behavior …

“In 2008, amid the US presidential campaign season, the State Department revealed that its employees had inappropriately accessed passport files belonging to prominent presidential hopefuls, though there was no indication Thursday of whether Holloman had been involved in those breaches.”

Whether to satisfy personal curiosity, to provide information to a political campaign (Joe the Plumber) or to sell to a tabloid (UCLA Medical Files), a crime has been committed. And the extremely light sentences handed down to government workers do not serve as a strong lesson to similarly-minded file-peekers.

It is about time to get tough with those in government who use their position and access to invade the privacy of others. We are on the verge of creating the largest government database in the history of man, one which will contain medical, financial and employment information on every individual in the United States. A clear and present danger to our constitutional liberties and a potential misuse of information by a tyrannical or hyper-politicized government.

We must demand jail time for those government workers who invade the privacy of others whether for personal, professional, political or profit-making reasons. Until this is done, we should have a well-founded reluctance to trust our government with our personal information – which can be used to embarrass, intimidate, blackmail or coerce us into taking unwarranted actions to preserve our privacy.

It is our freedom, it is our data – and the government should be respectful of the trust “we the people” place in our governmental institutions. Without that trust, our government is no better than that of a self-serving, self-perpetuating banana republic.

-- steve

Reference Links …

US State Department clerk sentenced for passport peeking

State Department Bombshell: Workers Fired for Access of Obamas Passport File March 2008

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