Sunday, December 03, 2006

Black list

Ever check your credit score? Chances are that if you have, you’ve found things you never knew about yourself - because they simply aren’t true. I found out not long ago after contacting the major credit reporting agencies, that I have several aliases which include a Chinese name; that I also owned several of my neighbors’ houses, that my long deceased in-laws live with me and that I recently and unbeknownst to me, lived in Evanston Illinois.

Every time some 6 thumbed, quasi-literate and hard of hearing telemarketer misspelled my name or mistyped my address or zip code, it seems to have been recorded and perpetuated. Some of these errors are quite comical, but if this misinformation were accessible to those who might want (God forbid) to hire me, allow me credit, permit me to vote, acquire a concealed weapons permit or to get on an airplane, the comedic aspect would lose its appeal rapidly. If someone with a name close enough to one of my accidental aliases were to be convicted of a felony, I might as many Floridians have, face a long road toward restoring my voting rights. I might find myself as many have, on a no-fly list, or passed over for a grant or permit with no explanation and no appeal.

Of course we do have limited access to this otherwise public credit information, but if the secret database that the Bush Administration is keeping in their computers hidden in some unmarked building in Northern Virginia is only twice as accurate as TransUnion or Experian, many of us could be in trouble and there seems to be no way to know, much less to do anything about it. Oversight? Surely you jest. That would be a total victory for the Terrorists and would demoralize the troops.

According to an AP report, millions of Americans have been evaluated without their knowledgeover the last four years in order to assess the risks that they are terrorists or criminals. The Homeland Security Department's computerized Automated Targeting System has been assessing travelers since 2002 and the results of this data mining are to be kept secret for 40 years. You can’t see it, but some or all of the data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring, contracting and licensing decisions. The stories of small children being on no-fly lists and people with the same middle name as Saddam Hussein’s brother being denied the right to travel appear regularly. Many more ramifications of this secret list may be waiting to emerge.

Fortunately George Bush’s Stalinesque one party system has begun to fall apart and Incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont says that

"Data banks like this are overdue for oversight. That is going to change in the new Congress."
If so, it won’t be a minute too soon.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for word from Mount Olympus as to why, in the absence of any debt whatsoever, I’m carrying too much debt for my income. I’m sure the explanation will have something to do with the ghosts of my in-laws and my phantom residence in Illinois – or maybe it’s my invisible Chinese alter-ego.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree but wasn't able to express why nearly as well as you did.

And your observation that "Surely you jest. That would be a total victory for the Terrorists and would demoralize the troops." had me laughing out loud.

Capt. Fogg said...

Thanks - I'm glad somebody likes this stuff!