Nadler Statement on Markup of H.R. 338, The "Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act"

Feb 9, 2004

Washington, DC -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today made the following statement at the Markup of H.R. 338, the "Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act," legislation introduced by Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Nadler that would require federal agencies to analyze the impact of proposed rules and regulations on privacy rights:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank you and the distinguished Ranking Member for taking up this important legislation and for your leadership on the protection of personal privacy.

As the witnesses who spoke at today’s hearing have made clear, the need for government to consider the privacy impact of its actions - beyond what is now required by law or rule - has increased in importance as technology and legislation have expanded the capacity of federal agencies to intrude into the lives of average, often law-abiding Americans.

Like many of our colleagues, I have also been deeply concerned about efforts to develop "data mining" capabilities, whether under the name "Total Information Awareness," "Terrorism Information Awareness," or some other name.

I am also concerned that the expanding use of non-governmental databases, and contractors - especially those who ship work abroad - might open new holes in security and privacy. These are issues that both Privacy Impact Analyses and this Committee in its oversight capacity must continue to examine.

The virtue of the legislation before us is that it would provide a uniform and structured system of examining privacy issues in advance, when, as our witnesses all seem to agree, the analysis could do the most good.

I do not view this requirement to be in any way inconsistent with the missions of our law enforcement agencies. In fact, doing such an analysis would provide the benefit of working out some of the more difficult privacy issues in advance - sparing the agency law suits, controversy and, potentially, congressional action to shut down an ill-conceived effort, many of which might have been avoided.

Civil liberties and public safety need not be in conflict. Often the debate over the supposed "trade-off" between security and individual rights is no more than a red herring. By providing for the appropriate analysis and consideration in advance, in areas not currently reached by existing law, federal agencies will be able to do their jobs better and citizens will enjoy protection from both terrorism and governmental intrusion.

I especially appreciated the comments of our witnesses on ways in which they believe our legislation could be made more effective, and I look forward to working with them, and with the members of this Committee, to ensure that this legislation is both workable and equal to the demands modern threats and developing technology pose.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.