Privacy Issues in Congress

November 19, 1998

As the 105th Congress winds down, it's amazing to me that there never was an extended debate on the issue of privacy. Granted, there wasn't a lot of debate on a number of issues, but the lack of debate on this fundamental issue shows how far down the road we have gone. Let's revisit some of the issues I've discussed in previous commentaries.

We saw absolutely no debate on issues such as the national ID card, the medical ID number, the Clinton administration encryption policy, along with the Clinton administration's executive order authority and federal databases.

Some of the proposals were defeated, at least for now. The national ID card was defeated, for example, not because Congress debated the issue, but because thousands of Americans wrote letters and made phone calls.

Most other issues, however, are moving ahead. Congress gave the FBI permission to use "roving wiretap surveillance." That means that the next time you use a pay phone at your local grocery store, it may be tapped merely because there's a criminal suspect within the area. Last week the Federal Communications Commission mandated that cell phones and other wireless telephone companies track the location of the customers from the time the call was initiated until the time it was terminated. By locating the cell site the person was using, government can pinpoint the location of every citizen who uses a cell phone since the telephone companies must track and log the locations.

Meanwhile private citizens must use weak encryption software to protect their privacy and be subjected to more and more information about them being stored in federal databases. All in all, this hasn't been a very good session on Congress with regard to privacy issues. And what's most disturbing is that all of it took place without an extended debate in Congress.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International