Feds to tap California prison data

The Homeland Security Department is planning to tap into the California State Offender Based Information System as part of a plan to use existing databases to carry out its mission.

California's offender database contains detailed and timely information on every inmate in the state's prison system, including biographical data, criminal history, past and current warrants.

The Homeland Security Department issued a notice on July 30 that it plans to award a sole source contract to the Stephen P. Teale Data Center to lease hardware and network connectivity to the California prison information system. The state-run center is the only agency with access to the prison database.

Federal officials did not specifically say why they wanted access to the system, or how much the one-year contract is worth.

However, the network helps federal law enforcement agencies in California get information on "criminal aliens" in California prisons, the notice said.

Many databases could be useful for "keeping dangerous people off airplanes," said Jerry Berman, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. But if homeland security officials look not only for terrorists but also other people wanted by law enforcement agencies, "that is taking them away from their anti-terrorism mission," Berman said.

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