Liberty depends in great measure on the privacy that each American retains.
We are alarmed by Washington's growing collection of information. The number of federal data banks is now estimated at between 800 and 900 and more than 50 agencies are involved. We question the need for all these computers to be storing the records of our lives. Safeguards must protect us against this information being misused or disclosed. Major changes, for example, are needed to maintain the confidentiality of tax returns and Society Security records.
Recent Supreme Court decisions have held that an individual has no constitutional right to the privacy of records held in banks or other depository institutions and that they can be readily obtained by law enforcement agencies without a person's consent or knowledge. Law enforcement authorities must be able to pursue criminal violators, yet, at the same time, there should be reasonable controls imposed to protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens. We support legislation, now pending, to assure this protection.
Too many government records, on the other hand, are unnecessarily classified. Congress and the Executive should devise a more reasonable system for classifying and handling government information.
The President's achievements in protecting privacy are unequalled by past administrations and must be built upon in the future. We particularly note changes in federal record-keeping systems, the appointment of the Commission on the CIA, the reorganization of the intelligence community and the restriction of White House access to income tax returns.
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