Despite what the Sept. 28 news story "Senate Bill Proposes Anti-Terror Database" says, our bill would not create a database in which information is stored on some massive government computer -- it wouldn't create a database at all. It would simply allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to share information already in their files with other users on the network.

So how would that protect privacy?

The first level of protection is included in the legislative language that would establish the network. The bill states that as rules for acquiring, accessing, sharing and using terrorism data are developed, the government also must develop guidelines to protect privacy and civil liberties in the development and use of that network.

In addition, the bill would create a privacy and civil liberties oversight board separate from the intelligence agencies. It would be charged with reviewing proposed expansions of government power -- including the new shared information network -- to ensure that such expansions do not violate privacy and civil liberties. Members of the board would be required to have expertise in civil liberties and privacy issues and would be drawn largely from privacy and civil liberties organizations. Board members would have high-level security clearances, subpoena power and the power to hold hearings, and it would be required to report its findings to Congress.

As the Sept. 11 commission pointed out, the inability to access, share, distribute or even know what information was available had grave consequences. Like members of that commission, I believe that we can be both safe and free. This bill is a step in reaching those goals.


U.S. Senator (D-Ill.)