Require Accuracy in the Nation's Largest Criminal Justice Database

  • Author:
  • Send To:
    Mitchell E. Daniels, Director, Office of Management and Budget
  • Sponsored By:
  • More Info at:
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.
Director, Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Mr. Daniels:

We strongly oppose the Justice Department's recent decision to lift the Privacy Act requirement that the FBI ensure the accuracy and completeness of the over 39 million criminal records it maintains in its National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This action poses significant risks to both privacy and effective law enforcement.

Over 80,000 law enforcement agencies have access to the NCIC system. The database includes records on wanted persons, missing persons, gang members, citizen arrest records, as well as information about stolen cars, boats, and other information. The Privacy Act of 1974 requires the FBI to make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the records in the NCIC system. Now, the Justice Department has exempted the system from the accuracy requirements of this important law.

There have been several well publicized cases of innocent persons being subject to false arrest due to inaccurate information in the NCIC system. The Supreme Court has also expressed concern about reliance on inaccurate records in the NCIC.

We believe it is particularly important to ensure that Privacy Act obligations are applied to government record systems as the government considers dramatic expansion of record-keeping systems and the incorporation of private sector databases that are frequently inaccurate and unreliable.

The FBI should work to improve the accuracy and completeness of the NCIC, rather than exempt itself from its well established legal obligations. We urge the OMB to exercise its oversight responsibility and require the Justice Department to comply with the Privacy Act obligations for the NCIC. The Privacy Act should continue to govern the maintenance and use of this important law enforcement database.