Before the days of White House Enemy Lists and IRS leaks, one might have been tempted to dismiss a book so-titled as tabloid...

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DOSSIER: The Secret Files They Keep on You

Before the days of White House Enemy Lists and IRS leaks, one might have been tempted to dismiss a book so-titled as tabloid sensationalism. But its author -- executive director of the ACLU -- compellingly documents numerous instances of such abuses. The book is loosely organized but certain themes persist: invasion of privacy, improper characterization, unjustified -- and often illegal -- data collection and dissemination of information. An elementary school teacher writes that a student has ""Marxist tendencies"" or is ""a real sickle"" (actual cases); the judgments are eventually made available to employers. ""Tracking systems,"" ""predelinquent programs"" and police ""Y.D. cards"" (issued without due process) label (arbitrarily) juveniles and thereby become self-fulfilling prophecies. Accessible arrest records -- without noting dismissal or acquittal -- undermine the presumption of innocence. Rehabilitated addicts are stigmatized, despite experimental hirings by the First National City Bank and Chase Manhattan that determined they were perfectly adequate in performance. Conviction records perpetuate crime in that they prevent an ex-con from finding work. Medical records -- including those of former mental patients, who don't have access to them -- are freely available to insurance companies. Credit bureaus, their investigators disguised as ""Welcome Neighbors,"" set down judgments of ""promiscuity"" and ""neatness."" The FBI identification system is not productive enough to justify its cost -- and its potential for abuse is horrific. The recent wiretaps of newsmen and the employment of a college switchboard operator as an informant against academic ""radicals"" -- not to mention Watergate abominations -- show that fears are not unjustified. A forceful, action-provoking book.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Stein & Day

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1974