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    NextGov: DHS information-sharing initiative stalls due to privacy concerns

    NextGov reports on privacy questions surrounding a Department of Homeland Security data-sharing project:

    For the third year in a row, Congress as part of the Homeland Security spending bill prohibited DHS from using appropriated funds to stand up the National Immigration Information Sharing Operation. To start the flow of funding, the Homeland Security secretary must certify that the project — designed to give intelligence and law enforcement agencies access to DHS immigration information — complies with applicable laws, including privacy and civil liberties standards.

    Lawmakers would not be satisfied until the comptroller general reviewed the DHS secretary’s certification and agreed the initiative meets privacy requirements. The Senate passed the fiscal 2010 spending bill earlier this week and it now awaits President Obama’s signature. The fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009 Homeland Security appropriations measures included similar stipulations. […]

    In a report released in June to accompany the Homeland Security spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee expressed concern that “although the department has had at least 18 months to develop and submit operating documents and certifications showing that these programs can be conducted within existing privacy and civil liberties statutes, it has failed to adequately do so. While the committee strongly supports programs that the department believes are necessary for the security of the country, it is pointless to sustain funding for programs that are not operational and have been unable to demonstrate they can function within existing law.”

    The report encourages the department to use funding provided for analysis and operations to complete its privacy review.

    In the same report, the House Appropriations Committee also questioned the privacy and civil liberties’ impact of the National Applications Office, which was shuttered by DHS in June after much controversy about the spy-satellite program.

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