WorldLII Home | Databases | WorldLII | Search | Feedback

EPIC Alert

You are here:  WorldLII >> Databases >> EPIC Alert >> 1996 >> [1996] EPICAlert 18

Database Search | Name Search | Recent Articles | Noteup | LawCite | Help

EPIC Alert 3.18 [1996] EPICAlert 18


Volume 3.18 October 23, 1996

Published by the

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Washington, D.C.


NOTE: This issue of the EPIC Alert reviews legislation passed by the 104th Congress in the last few days of the session that may have significant implications for privacy, civil liberties, and free speech.

Table of Contents

[1] Budget Bill
[2] Digital Telephony
[3] Credit Report Bill Revised
[4] Immigration Bill Approved
[5] Intelligence Bill
[6] Computer Crime Bill
[7] Computer Pornography
[8] FAA Authorization
[9] Upcoming Conferences and Events

[1] Budget Bill

On September 30, President Clinton signed the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act (PL 104-208). The Act was a conglomeration of a number of bills including funding bills for most federal agencies for Fiscal Year 1997, an immigration bill, a banking bill and other unrelated pending measures. There were several provisions in the Appropriations Act that concern programs to extend government surveillance. The other bills with civil liberties implications are covered below as separate items.

Included in the omnibus appropriations legislation were numerous grants for new technologies for expanding government databases and other monitoring capabilities. Overall, the programs total nearly $300 million.

The FBI received a total of $2.735 billion for salaries and expenses for FY 97, an increase of $315 million over the previous year. The White House had requested $2.845 billion. Included in the FBI's funding are numerous surveillance programs, including $30 million over two years to complete the NCIC 2000 project which, according to the legislative report, is already three one half years overdue and $100 million over budget.

The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification system also received $98 million dollars, even though the Conference Committee report found it to be "$119,500,000 over budget and more than one year behind schedule." More money was also poured into databases, including $9.5 million for grants to the states to create databases that are compatible with the FBI's NCIC, DNA and fingerprint databases; $8.5 million to add two new databases to the NCIC; and $20 million to establish a "National Instant Background Check for handgun purchases."

Other agencies also received large amounts of money for surveillance. The DEA received $8.1 million for 50 agents to conduct wiretaps in the Southwest. The INS received $27 million for new equipment including infrared scopes, low light television systems, sensors, and forward looking infrared systems. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) received $24 million and an extra $1 million from the Violent Crime Reduction Program for its "Cybercash Initiative."

A large portion of federal money was also appropriated to provide local and state police with new surveillance technologies. A total of $50 million was appropriated for upgrading state criminal databases under the Brady bill. Three million dollars is set aside for "DNA Identification State Grants" and $900,000 for developing identification systems for missing Alzheimer Patients. All of the grants are contingent on the state databases being networked with the federal systems. The National Institute of Justice was given $20 million for "assisting units of local governments to identify, select, develop, modernize, and purchase new technologies for use by law enforcement," including $3.5 million for "Facial Recognition Technology." Undefined amounts are also given to the FBI's Center of Advanced Supported for Technology for Law Enforcement for "computerized identification systems and forensic DNA analysis techniques." Another $10 million is appropriated for "counterterrorism technologies" authorized by the counterterrorism bill.

[2] Digital Telephony Funding

The Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act also included funding for the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, popularly known as the FBI's "Digital Telephony" plan. The provision creates a permanent Telecommunications Carrier Compliance Fund within the Department of Justice. Unlike previous plans for the Fund, where the money was to be appropriated each year by Congress or obtained from civil and criminal fines, the provision enacted by Congress allows intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the NSA to finance the program directly -- the Fund can receive money from "any US Government agency with law enforcement or intelligence responsibilities." This funding mechanism could effectively diminish Congress's ability to oversee the program and to identify waste, fraud, or abuse in the implementation of the wiretap plan.

In addition to the donations from intelligence agencies, the bill provides for $60 million in direct funding. Another $12 million was reprogrammed from previously unspent funds in the Department of Justice budget. However, Congress must approve the Fund as an "emergency requirement" under the provisions of a 1985 budget bill.

The bill also contains a number of minor oversight mechanisms. The FBI is again required to submit an implementation plan and yearly reports to Congress. Similar provisions in the original 1994 law have been largely ignored by the FBI.

Congress rejected attempts to incorporate sections from the Counterterrorism bill increasing wiretapping into the budget bill. Those provisions would have increased roving wiretaps and allowed the use of information obtained from unlawful wiretaps in court proceedings.

More information on the Digital Telephony bill and other wiretap issues is available from:

Your contributions will help support Freedom of Information Act and First Amendment litigation, strong and effective advocacy for the right of privacy and efforts to oppose government regulation of encryption and funding of the National Wiretap Plan.

Thank you for your support.

WorldLII: Copyright Policy | Disclaimers | Privacy Policy | Feedback