Military builds database of our children.
BY CAROL VAN HOUTEN
Our youth are distressingly vulnerable. Suzanne Swift (the local young woman trying to get out of the Army because of the stress of war and sexual harassment) got recruited to the military in the way that too many are: Not having a clear alternative plan for her next step in life, she fell for the military recruiter's lies and misinformation. She was offered a "deal." For enlisting for five years in the Army as an MP (military police), she would not go to Iraq but would get the usual "goodies" the recruiters promote such as money for college.
Little did she know that there are two sorts of MPs — some police military bases while some police checkpoints in Iraq. Little did she know that she would be subjected to constant sexual harassment. Since recruiter promises and enlistment contracts cannot be relied upon, she was very shortly in Iraq.
Young people are vulnerable in another way that is little known: the Pentagon collects data on them.
Without Congressional authorization, the Pentagon has a database estimated to include 90 to 95 percent of all males and females, ages 16 to 25. Though in existence since 2002, knowledge of this database only became public a year ago. The reason for this database: to improve military recruiting capability.
Data gathered include: name, address, email address, phone and cell phone numbers, Social Security number, ethnicity, schools attended, areas of study, birthdate, if males have registered with Selective Service, plus much more. Data comes in from a wide variety of sources such as drivers' license processing, high school and college release of data (unless students opt out), PSAT and SAT scores (unless students refuse release to the military) and the ASVAB (a military entrance and job placement test), unless schools refuse release of data to the military. The Pentagon contracts with a private marketing firm, BeNow, owned by Equifax, a credit rating company, to run the database and to sweep the Internet for information, a task marketing firms are skilled at doing. Youth are often readily persuaded to release private information on the Internet.
Alarmed yet? It gets worse. Youth can contact this database, the Joint Advertising and Marketing Research and Studies office (JAMRS) at 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Ste. 200, Arlington, VA 22203 to stop JAMRS from mailing military recruiting materials, but they cannot remove themselves or any of their data from the database — or even correct inaccurate information, if they somehow know data is inaccurate.
Even more alarmed? It gets worse. Data can be released to national or international law enforcement agencies, tax authorities and many others without notice of the release. And there is no provision for this database to end at age 26.
Of the five largest events of compromised personal data, two were lost to hacking, three to stolen or lost backup data (New York Times, 5/23). Hacking and theft clearly occur to both governmental and commercial databases. This database exists in both realms, being run by a commercial company which sweeps the Internet daily for information and conveys it to the Pentagon on a weekly basis.
This Pentagon database — at the moment confined to youth, but having no end date — seems on track to become a permanent database on everyone. How attractive to identity thieves is a database with the key information of Social Security numbers, plus birthdates, plus lots of personal information?
It seems to me that the general public is far too silent and accepting of governmental invasions of our privacy, especially when such invasions are done in the name of fighting the "war on terror" or in the name of facilitating military recruitment.
Now that our youth — as young at 16 — are in such an extensive, invasive, unneeded and probably illegal database — for the stated reason of facilitating military recruiting, are we ready to stand up and speak out loudly in protest? How many more Suzanne Swifts will it take?
Please call our senators and representatives to tell them to take action to end this database.