It looks like even the military is having trouble protecting the information of its servicemen and women. The Department of Justice announced at the end of last week that United States Army Sergeant Ammie Brothers of Columbus, Georgia pleaded guilty to charges of illegally obtaining personal information from the U.S. Army’s Knowledge Online computer system.
Ammie used the information she obtained to harass and intimidate fellow military personnel. Charges covered acts including the misrepresentation of herself to credit card companies and authorizing charges she had made using their accounts.
With the ongoing national debate over privacy in the United States, it is telling that the military was unable to prevent Ammie from exploiting the information she illegally accessed. This gives weight to arguments made by many that while the government is able to collect massive amounts of data, it is unable to interpret that data in any meaningful way.
Every time something like this occurs, the evidence suggests more and more that the government is either uninterested or incapable of pursuing criminals that are attacking American citizens. Instead, only being interested in pursuing “terrorists” but somehow missing people like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Ambivalence or incompetence, you choose.
This latest case highlights just that problem. If military personnel cannot expect for their personal information to be protected from illegal access and exploitation, what guarantee or trust can the people place in the government to protect the average citizen?
Programs like PRISM are capable of unprecedented data collection, but the government has shown that it’s not learning much from it. Does that mean that the government isn’t interested in interpreting the data or that they are unable to interpret the data? I’m not sure which is worse.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.