Wednesday, April 9, 2008

LA - Lawsuit challenges sex offender law regarding computers

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Because he apparently doesn't know what the constitution says!

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

04/09/2008

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A state legislator says he's confident of the legality of police searches of computers of sex offenders even after their sentences end.

Senator John Waterman (Contact) of Shelburn, says the bill is a way to protect children from sexual predators. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit last week challenging the constitutionality of the law.

Waterman's bill originally had nothing to do with sex offenders. But late in the session, a conference committee inserted several provisions - including the ones dealing with computers.

Starting July 1st, the law will require sex offenders enrolling in the state's public registry to submit e-mail addresses and user names for instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites. Offenders who provide that information must sign a consent form allowing searches of their computers or other Internet-enabled devices at any time.
- Sorry, I would not sign a "consent form" when I do not consent to the illegal search of my machine without a warrant... If you do sign it, make sure you put "UNDER DURESS" in big bold letters next to your signature.


FL - No criminal background checks for committees

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Good ole' hypocrisy at work! You see, when these laws affect your life, that is when people scream...

04/09/2008

BUNNELL -- Commissioners opted Monday not to have applicants to the county's advisory boards and committees undergo criminal background checks.

Melissa Sheets, the county's special projects coordinator, said one of the commissioners had approached county staff about the possibility of screening advisory board and committee applicants' criminal backgrounds. She didn't specify which commissioner made the request.

Currently, advisory board and committee applicants are only screened using free sex predator and sex offender databases at a state and national level, Sheets told commissioners at the meeting.

Although one commissioner was looking for more security than that, another was concerned the additional research into people's personal lives was too much.

"I don't know what the benefit would be to do this," Commissioner Milissa Holland said. "If (the applicant) stole a gallon of milk ten years ago, (he or she) can't sit on one of our boards?"

Such a move would really be about ensuring "citizen(s) in good standing" were being placed on county boards, County Administrator Craig Coffey said.

But searching applicants' criminal backgrounds would come with a price, Sheets said.

She said a background check could be done without charge on applicants, but it would only detect criminal charges that originate in Flagler County. To see charges from other Florida counties would cost $23 per applicant, and a nationwide check of a person's criminal history would cost $57.

Commissioners were recommended to select the $23 background check if they wanted to implement such a policy.

But Commissioner Bob Abbott said he was concerned about the costs county taxpayers would have to bear with the new searches, and Commissioner George Hanns worried people might be deterred from applying to volunteer boards and committees because of what could surface on a criminal check. He spoke of a circumstance in which an upstanding member of the community could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, like in someone else's car, and end up with a criminal charge on their record when another occupant of that vehicle is caught with something illegal.

Even worse, Hanns said, conducting the background checks would likely make the documents subject to public record, thus exposing personal information to the entire community.

So even though the requirement has faced some scrutiny by residents in Daytona North on the western side of the county recently, commissioners opted to instead uphold the current requirement that advisory board and committee members be registered voters.

"If they are a registered voter, they can't be a felon unless they went through a procedure to restore their civil rights," County Attorney Al Hadeed told commissioners Monday.

It's an indirect and less intrusive way to determine if someone has been convicted of a felony, Coffey and Hadeed explained.

Conversely, Coffey said, it excludes people who may not be felons and simply haven't registered to vote in the county.

This was the chief complaint lodged by Daytona North residents in recent News-Journal interviews. Residents said the voting requirement limits community members' participation on the Daytona North Advisory Council and has resulted in unbalanced representation.

heather.scofield@news-jrnl.com


LA - Rethink stand on residency restrictions for sex offenders

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04/09/2008

It seems that our new governor, Bobby Jindal (Contact), is making it his personal agenda to create sex offender laws that will be so burdensome and oppressive on those who have been convicted of sex crimes so that he will have the image of being "tough on crime" — the new war cry of politicians and public officials. It is generally felt that this helps them get re-elected. Those voters, I'd like to submit, are being brainwashed by the news media to believe that all so-called sex offenders are violent predators and that they cannot be rehabilitated. Neither is true!

Is his purpose to make it so tough to live in our communities that they will consider moving from our state? Did it ever cross his mind that this is the same state that most were born in, where their families have deep roots, and where their allegiance and support lies? And could he not consider that if we helped them rehabilitate their lives, they would gladly become productive citizens of our communities instead of a financial burden by a lifetime of being "guarded" by our law enforcement agencies?

It is well known that mandatory sentencing and laws governing the imprisonment, parole or probation of said criminals do not always fit the crime to which they are accused. That is why there are such groups as Families Against Mandatory Minimums that are fighting to make our courts fit the sentencing to the crime. Has the governor considered that some of the sex offenders might have been accused of a crime that they did not commit? It is not uncommon for vindictive ex-girlfriends or women impregnated by mutual-consent sexual activity to falsely accuse the person of a variety of sexual crimes. Or worse, an irate mother of a pregnant teen will be the accuser. Cases that point to sentencing that does not fit the crime: John Stossel on the ABC news show 20/20 had 10 feature stories on teenage sex called "Age of Consent: Sex Offender Laws Gone Too Far." It will be worthwhile to view them on http://www.abcnews.go.com/2020/AgeOfConsent/.

State Sen. Jody Amedee, D-Gonzales, has introduced a bill to the present legislative session, SB 513, which will double the distance from the homes of sex offenders to areas in which children might be present such as schools, bus stops, nursery schools, parks, etc. The bill also wants to make this a lifetime restriction doubling already strict penalties for noncompliance.

"The main impact of residency restrictions may be to drive former offenders underground, away from families, police supervision and the help that can stop them re-offending," said Sarah Tofte, author of "Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm than Good," dated Oct. 13, 2007, and found on the Web Law Professor Blog Network. The author quotes an Iowa sheriff that pointed out, "We've taken stable people who have committed a sex crime and cast them out of their homes, away from their jobs, away from treatment, and away from public transportation. It's just absolutely absurd what these laws have done, and the communities are at greater risk because of it."

According to a lengthy thesis titled "No Easy Answers, Sex Offender Laws in the U.S.," which was found on the Human Rights Watch Web page (www.hrw.org): "Residency restrictions that apply to whole categories of sex offenders should be abolished. This does not mean that limitations cannot be placed on where former offenders may live. Residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders should be determined on a case-by-case basis, for example by courts or probation and parole officers, and be subject to periodic review. The restrictions should be reasonably tailored to such factors as the specific crime the offender committed; an assessment of his or her employment, family and other support systems; the nature of supervision and treatment the offender is receiving; and the length of time the individual has lived in the community offense-free. For former offenders who are not subject to probation or parole supervision, states could create expert panels to undertake similar periodically reviewed assessments to determine whether any type of residency restriction is warranted for a particular individual and for how long."

I encourage you to rethink your stand on residency restrictions on sex offenders and voice your opinions about Senate Bill 513.

Margaret d'Aquin lives in Benton. She is the leader of Shoulders to Lean On Support Group for Families of Incarcerated Persons.


IN - Former guard sentenced to 8 years for molest of girl

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04/07/2008

By SHAWN McGRATH (shawn.mcgrath@heraldbulletin.com)

ANDERSON — A former Madison County Community Corrections guard was given the maximum sentence under a plea agreement Monday for fondling a 7-year-old girl.

Madison Superior 3 Judge Thomas Newman sentenced Joshua M. Borden, 32, Anderson, to eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty in March to three counts of child molestation, all Class C felonies punishable by two to eight years. In an agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty as charged with the stipulation that the sentences all be served at the same time.

“Not only am I sorry to the state for what I’ve done and the mistakes and crimes I’ve committed,” Borden said before Newman handed down the sentence. “I also would like to send my apologies out more to my family and the family of the victim, sir, because they’ve been harmed by it more than I have.”

Deputy Prosecutor Steve Koester argued for the maximum term allowed under the plea deal. He said Borden’s job in law enforcement made the crime worse.

“He knew the difference between right and wrong and he knows what happens to people who commit criminal offenses,” Koester said. “This was a 7-year-old girl who obviously is going to serve a life sentence of psychological problems because of what this man did to her.”

According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the charges:

Police began their investigation after child protective services officials were contacted because the girl was discovered inappropriately touching herself while at school.

The girl told investigators Borden had fondled her at least once in the past and that Borden sometimes asked her to touch him.

During questioning, Borden told detectives the girl “turned him on,” according to the affidavit. He admitted the girl touched him in a sexual way once, and that he fantasized about the 7-year-old.

Community Corrections officials previously said Borden was fired not long after the allegations surfaced on Oct. 19. He had been hired on Oct. 1 and had earned $8 per hour. He had passed a background check and did not have a criminal record.

When asked by Koester, Borden could provide little explanation for his attraction to the girl.

“The only way I could truthfully respond to that, sir ... is that I do have some problems that I need to seek counseling for,” Borden said.

Borden’s attorney, Jeff Lockwood, argued that Borden should be given a four-year sentence, with one year behind bars and the other three suspended.

“We cannot allow the emotion that Mr. Koester has tried to stir here to carry us beyond the statutes that govern our actions,” Lockwood said. “(Borden) has led a law-abiding life up to this point.”

In giving Borden the maximum, the judge said he didn’t completely believe Borden expressed enough remorse for the crimes.

“He’s indicated his remorsefulness,” Newman said, “but as Deputy Koester points out, if he hadn’t of been caught, he’d probably be perpetuating the same acts, so it sort of negates the remorsefulness.”


ISP Contracts: Be Careful What You Sign

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04/09/2008

The fine print on an Internet service provider's electronic contract leaves few rights for subscribers

What's scary, funny and boring at the same time? It could be a bad horror movie. Or it could be the fine print on your Internet service provider's contract.

Those documents you agree to -- usually without reading -- ostensibly allow your ISP to watch how you use the Internet, read your e-mail or keep you from visiting sites it deems inappropriate. Some reserve the right to block traffic and, for any reason, cut off a service that many users now find essential.

The Associated Press reviewed the "Acceptable Use Policies" and "Terms of Service" of the nation's 10 largest ISPs -- in all, 117 pages of contracts that leave few rights for subscribers.

"The network is asserting almost complete control of the users' ability to use their network as a gateway to the Internet," said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. "They become gatekeepers rather than gateways."

But the provisions are rarely enforced, except against obvious miscreants like spammers. Consumer outrage would have been the likely result if AT&T took advantage of its stated right to block any activity that causes the company "to be viewed unfavorably by others."

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, said this clause was a "piece of boilerplate that is passed around the corporate lawyers like a Christmas fruitcake.

"The idea that they would ever invoke it and point to it is nuts, especially since their terms of service already say they can cut you off for any reason and give you a refund for the balance of the month," Zittrain said.

AT&T removed the "unfavorably by others" wording in February after The Associated Press asked about the reason behind it. Subscribers, however, wouldn't know that it was gone unless they checked the contract word for word: The document still said it was last updated Oct. 8, 2007.

Most companies reserve the right to change the contracts at any time, without any notice except an update on the Web site. Verizon used to say it would notify subscribers of changes by e-mail, but the current contract just leaves that as an option for the company.

This sort of contract, where the subscriber is considered to agree by signing up for service rather than by active negotiation, is given extra scrutiny by courts, Zittrain said. Any wiggle room or ambiguity is usually resolved in favor of the consumer rather than the company.

Yet the main purpose of ISP contracts isn't to circumscribe the service for all subscribers, but rather to provide legal cover for the company if it cuts off a user who's abusing the system.

"Without the safeguards offered in these policies, customers could suffer from degradation of service and be exposed to a broad variety of malware threats," said David Deliman, spokesman at Cox Communications.

The language does matter: In a case involving a student accused of hacking, a federal appeals court held last year that subscribers should have a lower expectation of privacy if their service provider has a stated policy of monitoring traffic.

But these broadly written contracts still don't provide all the legal cover ISPs want. Comcast is being investigated by the Federal Communications Commission for interfering with file sharing by its subscribers. The company has pointed to its Acceptable Use Policy, which said, in general terms, that the company had the right to manage traffic. Since the investigation began, it has updated the policy to describe its practices in greater detail, and recently said it would stop targeting file-sharing once it puts a new traffic-management system in place late this year.

The Comcast case is a rare example of the government getting into the nitty-gritty of one of these contracts.

"There really should be an onus on the regulators to see this kind of thing is done correctly," said Bob Williams, who deals with telecom and media issues at Consumers Union.

If there were more competition, market forces might straighten out the contracts, he said. But most Americans have only two choices for broadband: the cable company or the phone company.

Williams himself knows that it's tough to pay attention to the contracts. He recently had Verizon Communications's FiOS broadband and TV service installed in his home. Only after the installation was completed did he get the contract in the mail.

He could have read some of the terms earlier, when placing the order online, but he just clicked the "Accept" button.

"I'm a hard-nosed consumer advocate type ... I really should have examined it better than I did," he said. But, he added, he acted like most consumers, because of the lack of alternatives. "You click the 'Accept' button because it's not like you're going somewhere else."

Other common clauses of ISP contracts:

ISPs CAN READ YOUR E-MAIL

Practically all ISPs reserve the right to read your e-mails and look at the sites you visit, without a wiretap order. This reflects the open nature of the Internet -- for privacy purposes, e-mails are more like postcards than letters. It's also prompted by the ISPs' need to identify and stop subscribers who use their connections to send spam e-mails.

Some ISPs, like AT&T, make clear that they do not read their subscriber's traffic as a matter of course, but also that they need little or no excuse to begin doing so. Cablevision, a cable operator in the Northeast, says one of the reasons it might look at what a customer is doing online would be to help operate its service properly.

The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act protects e-mail and other Internet communications from eavesdropping, but several of its provisions can be waived by agreements between the ISP and the subscriber. Also, the law is mainly aimed at making it difficult for the government, not companies, to snoop.

Wiretapping laws may also apply, but the situation is unclear. A federal appeals court panel in 2004 dismissed charges against a company that provided e-mail services for booksellers and snooped on their Amazon.com order confirmations. The charges of illegal wiretapping were reinstated by the full appeals court the next year, but the case hasn't been tried.

ISPs CAN BLOCK YOU FROM WEB SITES

Or at least they would like to think so. In a clause typical of ISPs, Comcast reserves the right to block or remove traffic it deems "inappropriate, regardless of whether this material or its dissemination is unlawful."

The ISP sees itself as the sole judge of whether something is appropriate.

Broad enforcement of this kind of clause for business purposes other than protecting users is likely to draw attention from regulators like the FCC, as is happening in the Comcast file-sharing case.

ISPs CAN SHUT YOU DOWN FOR USING THE CONNECTION TOO MUCH

For cable ISPs, up to 500 households may be sharing the capacity on a single line, and a few traffic hogs can slow the whole neighborhood down. But rather than saying publicly how much traffic is too much, some cable companies keep their caps secret, and simply warn offenders individually. If that doesn't work, they're kicked off.

It's difficult to reach these secret bandwidth caps unless users are downloading large amounts of high-quality video from the Internet, but the advent of high-definition Internet video set-top boxes like the Apple TV and the Vudu could make it more common.

Oddly, some ISPs, like Cox, say it's the responsibility of subscribers to ensure that they don't hog the traffic of other subscribers, a determination that's impossible for a home broadband user. Cox, however, does make the monthly download and upload limits public on its Web site.

Time Warner Cable has said it will test putting public caps on how much new subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, can download per month, and charge them more if they go over.

Digital subscriber line providers like AT&T and Verizon aren't as concerned about bandwidth hogs, because phone lines aren't shared among households.


DC - U.S. Shifting Prison Focus to Re-entry Into Society

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Just like I expected, everyone is eligible, except sex offenders.

04/08/2008

Back in the 1970s and ’80s, high crime and “get tough” laws meant longer sentences and more emphasis on punishment than on rehabilitation, and the federal and state governments spent billions building prisons.

Today, as a legacy of those policies, not only are record numbers incarcerated, but also about 700,000 state and federal prisoners are released annually, many of them with little education or employment prospects and destined to be imprisoned again within a few years.

In a sharp change in attitudes about incarceration, many states and private groups have recently experimented with “re-entry” programs to help released prisoners fit back into their communities and avoid new crime.

The strategy will get a major boost this week. President Bush is to sign the Second Chance Act in a public ceremony on Wednesday, making rehabilitation a central goal of the federal justice system. In a sign of how far the pendulum has swung, the measure passed Congress with nearly unanimous bipartisan support.

With the new law, the federal government is to provide more money and leadership in a field where progress is likely to be difficult at best, experts agree.

“From our perspective, this is a huge development,” said Michael Thompson, director of the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments. “Governors, legislatures, corrections and law enforcement agencies around the country were all very supportive of the act.”

The new push to help prisoners reintegrate into society has been driven in part by financial concerns: states cannot afford to keep building more prisons. It also reflects concern for the victims of repeat offenders and for the wasted lives of the offenders themselves, who are disproportionately black and from neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

The act authorizes $165 million in spending per year, including matching grants to state and local governments and nongovernmental groups to experiment with efforts like more schooling and drug treatment inside prison and aid with housing, employment and the building of family and community ties after release.

It also directs the Justice Department to step up research on re-entry issues and establishes a national Reentry Resource Center to promote successful approaches and provide training.

“This act represents a major change in crime policy,” said Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, who as a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration and the author of “But They All Come Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry” (Urban Institute Press, 2005) helped promote the shift.

Over the last decade, the re-entry cause has been embraced by an unusually wide range of groups and individuals, including evangelical Christians and liberal activists. Mr. Bush called for such a law in 2004 and in Congress, key sponsors included Senator Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican from Kansas, and Representative Danny K. Davis, a liberal Democrat from Illinois.

“It’s been a bipartisan coalition,” Mr. Travis said, “the sort of thing that doesn’t happen in Washington these days.”


TX - Texas sex offender drops bid to be mayor

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Listen to the audio below.

03/29/2008

James Brian Sliter, alleging corruption in Wilmer (pop. 3,500), joined the race last week. Then came the media storm, increasingly hostile pressure on his loved ones, and death threats.

WILMER, TEXAS -- James Brian Sliter had every legal right to run for mayor of this gritty little city. But as a registered sex offender, Sliter learned, reality is sometimes different.



A week after declaring that he was running for mayor of Wilmer because he was fed up by a local government he claims is sullied by nepotism and corruption, Sliter announced Friday that he was dropping out of the race.

The 42-year-old accountant, who was arrested four years ago after showing up to have sex with what he thought was a 15-year-old girl, said that wide media coverage generated by his candidacy brought attention to the political problems he claims exist in Wilmer. But it also sparked death threats and increasingly hostile pressure on his friends and loved ones, forcing him to reconsider.

"I had a good conversation with the probation department and I agreed that it would be the smart thing to do. I wasn't strong-armed," Sliter said. "The public here in Texas have made it pretty clear that they don't want me in office. It's not in Wilmer -- people here are supporting me -- but the bottom line is that people elsewhere are so adamantly opposed that it's starting to get really nasty."

As a result of being caught in an Internet chat room sting and pleading guilty to trying to sexually assault a child, Sliter is a registered sex offender. Usually, that bars people from public office in Texas. But, because he received 10 years' probation and will not be formally convicted as long as he completes the probation without trouble, he is free to pursue political dreams.

"I spoke to people about my offense, I was honest about it, and they said they still wanted to me to run," said Sliter, who claims he was encouraged to run by other residents of Wilmer, population 3,500, after he became a fixture at town meetings. "No one else would run against these corrupt people."

Sliter's candidacy rocked the poor town of small wood bungalows just south of Dallas. Some wondered who would vote for such a man, and what would possess him to seek the spotlight.

Sliter, who accepts full responsibility for his sex crime, claims he is simply trying to right wrongs and do something positive.

"I told everyone I was going to be on national media. I knew I was going to be persecuted," he said. "But maybe this is God's way of getting this fear of living with what I did out of my heart."

Some observers of city politics believed Sliter actually had an outside shot of winning the May election. A former mayor said in a letter that she was supporting Sliter because he "couldn't run the city any worse" than the other candidates: the sitting mayor and a former councilwoman.

Sliter's name will still appear on the ballot because it is too late to remove it, but he said he will ask supporters vote for someone else.

"There's a lot of chatter on the Internet that is negative, even dangerous," said Joe Aldrich, the editor of Wilmer Public Citizen, a blog that chronicles the city's contentious politics. "But in town, there is also a strong sentiment that what we know about Brian isn't nearly as bad as what we know about the people in [office] already. He may be a crook but he's not as bad a crook as some of these folks."

Wilmer Mayor Don Hudson scoffed at the notion that Sliter had a chance. But walking door to door to chat up voters, he has told them that electing a sex offender would turn Wilmer into a laughingstock.

"If you have a sex offender as a mayor, don't you think [Wilmer] would become a magnet for other sex criminals? I have grandchildren myself," said Hudson, 61, who says Sliter's claims of civic corruption are a sex offender's way of trying to deflect attention from his crimes.

Wilmer's civic leadership has a checkered reputation in Dallas County.

Aldrich said he became active in civic affairs after the mayor, who lived next door, sold his home for a handsome profit to a developer, who built a warehouse on the residential street. The mayor's daughter heads the zoning board.

But despite a flurry of news reports and allegations, none of the city's current leaders has been convicted of any wrongdoing.

Dallas County prosecutors investigated a nepotism allegation after Wilmer hired the son-in-law of a councilwoman as its city administrator. This week, a grand jury declined to indict three council members in the case.

Though many Wilmer residents seemed fed up with their current officeholders, none interviewed thisweek was ready to trade them in for a sex offender.

Several expressed outrage that Sliter was even allowed to run.

"It surprises me that people like him would even consider trying to get elected to any kind of office," said one 46-year-old Wilmer resident, who added that his 12-year-old daughter was undergoing counseling after an acquaintance, who turned out to be a registered sex offender, touched her in a car. "I would never vote for him -- not in a million years."

Due to the threats on his life, Sliter said he was afraid to walk door to door in search of votes, as small-town politicians typically do.

But despite dropping out, he believes he has conveyed a message that Wilmer is desperate for change -- and that even the lowliest sinners deserve a shot at redemption.

"I feel selfish for what I did in a way, because people around me are being persecuted," he said. "But if you have an opportunity to do something good and you don't, you're like the people in the Good Samaritan story who just walk past instead of helping out. I'm just sick of what's happening down there."

miguel.bustillo@latimes.com


Sex offender, new hire databases could be linked

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08/31/2006

By Michael Hampton

A federal database containing personal information on every person in America who gets a job or files an unemployment claim may be used to track sex offenders, according to a report released this week.

The Government Accountability Office in June briefed (PDF) staffers of the House Ways and Means Committee on three possible ways to adapt the National Directory of New Hires to track down sex offenders who fail to update their registration on sex offender registries, or who move from one state to another.

Originally established in 1996 to track down people who fail to pay court-ordered child support payments, the National Directory of New Hires contains data on all new hires, quarterly wage reports and unemployment claims made in the United States. It’s now also used to track down people who fail to pay off student loans, as well as verify claims for unemployment and low-income housing.

While states maintain separate sex offender registries, they are all required to send their data to the National Sex Offender Registry maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which now contains records on over 400,000 convicted sex offenders. But because many sex offenders fail to keep their registrations up to date, the report said, the offenders frequently cannot be located. Law enforcement agencies have turned to motor vehicle records and private commercial databases to locate some sex offenders.

The National Directory of New Hires, however, cannot be used for any purpose not authorized by law. So Congress must authorize a change in the law. GAO presented three possible options for granting law enforcement access to the NDNH database:

  1. The FBI would, in the course of an investigation, request records for specific individuals from the Office of Child Support Enforcement, which maintains the NDNH database. Or, the FBI would be allowed to access data directly from the NDNH database, “either for a specific offender or to pursue an investigation in a particular region.”
  2. The NDNH database would be used directly in order to update records in the National Sex Offender Registry using computerized matching.
  3. Under a hybrid approach, the states would submit information requests to the FBI, which would then look up the sex offenders in the new hires database on their behalf. This would also allow states to locate people who were released from prison before the creation of the sex offender registries.

Any of the approaches would allow law enforcement to locate sex offenders wherever they move in the U.S., even if they don’t update their own entry on the sex offender registry, by tracking where they work — which law enforcement would also learn.

The drawbacks, GAO noted, were that 21 percent of the entries in the sex offender registry don’t have Social Security numbers, complicating automated matching, that the new hires database does not include everyone in the country, such as independent contractors and many self-employed individuals, and that granting “wider access to the NDNH could jeopardize the security and confidentiality of the information it contains.”

The report leaves it to Congress to choose which of the three options for linking the databases it likes best, noting that the costs and benefits of any of the approaches are “uncertain.” But it did recommend that Congress implement the first option, granting FBI the ability to request records from the new hires database, as well as authorizing a test of automated matching between the two databases.

In a response to a draft of the report, Daniel R. Levinson, Health and Human Services Inspector General, noted that the “privacy and security risks” associated with linking the databases “should be analyzed in greater depth.”

Levinson’s response continues: “The proposed use of NDNH data would move the use of NDNH into law enforcement, an entirely new direction, and might tend to increase the risk of privacy and confidentiality breaches. The potential ramifications of wrongful use of NDNH data, as well as inaccurate or outdated addresses, should be considered carefully.”

No one seems to consider, however, whether registering sex offenders — or, for that matter, virtually everyone — is a good idea. It always seems like it at first, but these databases, once compiled, tend to be used for things other than what they were designed and intended for. Then the law of unintended consequences, which no one can break, comes into play.