Big Brother's half the way home

 If you think Big Brother is watching you, the bill that passed the House on Monday tells you it's true.

The Virginia Fusion Intelligence Center is where state local and federal officials are secretly gathering and  analyzing information on the citizens of Virginia and beyond. Apparently they are busy also worrying about hypothetical situations where someone could ask them for information they don't want to give out.

Through the aptly numbered HB1007, the Fusion Center seeks to extend its powers to keep all the gathered information permanently secret, and that includes the loosely defined  "criminal intelligence information." Plus, the bill makes employees of the Center immune from subpoena (ever heard of the right to confront your accuser?) and, perhaps worst of all, it would allow anyone who makes false or malicious charges against you immune from a lawsuit for defamation, invasion of privacy or impugning your civil rights.

You don't have to stretch to hard to see a situation where an angry neighbor or disgruntled ex can cause you a great deal of trouble, at minimum, by levying accusations against you to the Center.

 Now, to make matters worse, the House has greatly broadened the bill with an amendment that exempts "all other agencies of the commonwealth assigned to the Virginia Fusion Intelligence Center."

 While we all recognize that September 11 forever changed our tolerance for intrusion by law enforcement into our daily lives in the name of fighting terrorism, you can't simply throw basic constitutional rights out the window in a knee-jerk movement of overzealousness.

 We at the Virginia Coalition for Open Government would ask the legislators of the Virginia Senate to think carefully: is this truly the least restrictive means of usurping civil rights in an effort to aid the fight against domestic terrorism?

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