Government overreach, emanating from the executive branch, seems to be en vogue in today’s political climate. Everyday we hear of scandals outlining how big brother intrudes on the privacy of citizens. It may be no coincidence that these scandals are happening on a federal and on a state level, and it may be no coincidence that the executive branch embroiled in these scandals is of the Democratic Party. And what is also not a coincidence is that the Republicans in the legislative branch are doing little to get to the bottom of the scandals or initiate accountability measures to protect the people they are supposed to serve.
Everyone is fairly well aware of the NSA scandal, and how creepy it was to learn the government was gathering information on its citizens. Data mining, of the masses, is on steroids. Well, in Missouri the Democratic executive branch has also danced with information gathering scandals, and the Republican super majority has made hay out of the scandal. While they have reacted, publicly, with outrage, little is being done to inject accountability into the issue.
In early March of 2013, Eric Griffin of Stoddard County, Missouri, filed a lawsuit against the office fee agent of his county’s Department of Revenue, after he tried to renew his conceal and carry license. It turns out, he was among the first people to question why the DoR was scanning and retaining personal documents, such as birth certificates, in order to renew driver’s and CCW licenses. In Missouri, it is illegal to do so. Nor is it legal, in Missouri, to comply with the federal Real ID Act. The Missouri Department of Revenue forwards its collected information to a company called MorphoTrust, which specializes in partnerships with federal government agencies. Where it goes from there is under investigation.
If you are still following me, it is clearly not looking good for Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, at this point. And, as investigations continue, documents are uncovered to “suggest” that he was intentionally complying with Real ID, as he receives kudos from Janet Napolitano for doing just that.
Let’s take a minute to cross the isle and interject the Republican contribution to the issue. As you would guess, or hope, they jumped all over this one, squealing like a bunch of teenage girls in a horror movie. They called press conferences, made public statements, appeared on radio shows and wrote legislation, all in reaction to the assault on personal privacy on Missouri citizens. And they should.
But still, there is an eerie apprehension to bring accountability to any of the overreach. After their requests were ignored for a special prosecutor to be appointed, Missouri Speaker of the House, Tim Jones, called for a committee to investigate the findings, or not, of events relating to the malfeasance, or not. Hearings were called, and the typical evasion tactics ensued.
Missourians thought, briefly, they received some justice and relief from government oppression when the governor signed Senator Will Kraus’ bill on July 1st. The bill required the cessation of document collection, biometric photo scanning, and it also ordered the destruction of previously collected data. These are all good things. There are a few problems, however. Personal information has already been shared with the federal government. There is no provision in the state legislation to go after previously shared data. Also, there are absolutely no reporting measures, to require accountability from anyone, to assure that the bad acts will not happen again, or that data has been destroyed.
While swift action to put an end to privacy invasion is commendable, it was already against the law to do so. And Republicans, Tim Jones and Will Kraus, have failed to respond to the questions regarding their successfully passed SB 252.
Will there be follow up legislation to require reporting on successful destruction of collected data and biometric photos? Will there be a cessation of outside agencies (MorphoTrust)? Will there be penalties for violating these privacy laws enacted in this, past or future sessions?
Americans, regardless of party affiliation, are certainly facing tough times in dealing with an unreliable government. We have to take some responsibility for the mess in which we find ourselves. Reading the fine print, and scrutinizing legislation has never been more important. Additionally, accountability has never been more important. Lots of bills get passed to appease the angry masses, but do they really secure your liberty? We must be smarter and learn to recognize Yankee Doodle Legislation when it is campaigned and marketed to us. Maybe SB 252 does take a small step toward attacking a big problem, but do we really have time for incremental politics while the government is ten steps ahead of us, and crawling into our personal information? You should expect more form your government, in terms of accountability. Anyone who suggests otherwise, well, don’t re-elect them.