The America Civil Liberties Union of
Michigan, in conjunction with former Republican Governor William
Milliken, has recently initiated litigation to prevent the Michigan
State Police from participating in a multistate crime and terrorism
database. The ACLU asserts that The Mulistate AntiTerrorism
Information Exchange, also known as MATRIX, illegally shares
criminal records, arrest records and other types personal
information. For the basis of its litigation, the lawsuit cites a
law which Milliken himself signed in the early 1980s. The law was
signed after it was discovered that the Michigan State Police
collected personal information on hundreds of citizens, whose only
crime was that they were involved in anti-war and civil rights
activities. If the Michigan State Police were allowed to collect
and share personal information using this terrorism database, it
would be a major and unwarranted infringement on the civil rights
of Michigan citizens as well as a foreboding marker for the future
of our American free society.

Mira Levitan

The invasion of citizen’s privacy on the part of
government agencies is certainly nothing new in this country.
However one cannot let the rationality for the last invasion be the
reasoning for a new one. The governmental restriction of
fundamental rights can be a slippery slope. Each new intrusion into
the civil liberties of citizens must be vehemently attacked with
renewed specific scrutiny. This most recent attempt, courtesy of
the Michigan State Police, is no exception. The mere labeling and
tracking of marginal criminals will not successfully deter or
hinder terrorist acts. The goal of better ensuring the national
security within our borders is a noble purpose, but this terrorism
database comes at too high of cost to our personal liberties with
too little to gain. Such personal liberties were cast aside during
the 1960s and 1970s, and as Governor Milliken noted in an ACLU news
release, “Nearly 25 years later, the technology has changed,
but the privacy rights of Michigan citizens remains the
same.” We must not let the mistakes of our past come back to
haunt us again.

Without question, the aftermath of Sept. 11 has left much
insecurity about to the safety of this country. Suddenly, America
woke up into a nightmare where fear was rife and the feeling of
safety was a nostalgic memory. Ever since that time, personal
liberties have been in constant tug of war with policies enacted
under the excuse of national security. Chief among these policies
was the USA Patriot Act that makes personal documents, such as
books checked out in college libraries, accessible to national law
enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, citizens will have to suffer
the societal repercussions of the Patriot Act for years to come,
but other fields of civil protection can still be ensured. The
advent of the Internet and the rapid modernization of technology
have created many new domains that question the limits of privacy
rights and other civil liberties and is therefore why the
parameters of such liberty protection must be established now.
Americans must form the standards for electronic privacy before
such rights are reprehensibly restricted. The state of Michigan
should be an example to follow by not participating in the MATRIX
database.

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