A US privacy watchdog is urging scrutiny of the Justice Department's requested budget increase of $1.8bn, much of which it claims will be spent on electronic surveillance and profiling systems.
The Justice Department says such initiatives are necessary to aid the prevention and prosecution of crime.
But Chris Hoofnagle, legislative counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC), said civil liberties issues must be taken into account.
"It is too difficult to assess at this point whether security and privacy issues have been considered. We don't come out flatly against the increases, but concerns are raised," he said.
Hoofnagle said EPIC's report, Paying for Big Brother, A Review of the Proposed FY2003 Budget for the Department of Justice, may be the foundation for the questions that need to be asked.
EPIC policy fellow Alex Macone said the FBI will receive dramatic increases of $61.8m and 201 personnel to enhance its surveillance capabilities.
The increases will be used to collect evidence and intelligence, such as controversial surveillance technologies like Carnivore and key logger.
Macone also said the Justice Department plans large-scale identification systems integration that would boost the sharing and collection of personal information held by federal agencies.
"The budget requests an increase of $23.5m but there is no information in the budget materials that indicate privacy and security issues have been considered," Macone said.
She also said the budget documents lack the level of detail about the Department's programmes that would allow a fair public evaluation of their necessity and possible risks to civil liberties.
Several hearings, including the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Budget Committee, will be held over the next few weeks.
Hoofnagle and Macone said that without greater information about the spending programs and the features of the proposed initiatives, Congress and the public will be unable to adequately evaluate the need for the program.
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