12A - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Feds violate own po~jlicy agrainst online snooping-
WASHINGTON (AP) - People who log onto
dozens of federal government Web sites may be
forbidding it, investigators say.
In one case, a government contractor was even
given ownership of all the information collected
from a website, said the congressional report
The scope of the problem hasn't been nailed
down. For example, the report said NASA hasn't
determined how many websites it operates so
officials don't know how many might be gather-
ing the information.
The report, culled from audits of 16 agencies,
found 64 federal websites used files that allow
them to track the browsing and buying habits of
The files allow a website to identify an Inter-
net user's computer when that person returns to
the site. The technology can make browsing
more convenient by letting sites distinguish user
preferences, but it also has been attacked as an
intrusion of privacy.
The U.S. Mint says it uses the software to
operate an online shopping cart on its website,
much like many private-sector e-commerce sites.
But several of the agencies cited in the report
said they did not even know the tracking technol-
ogy was on their sites.
The departments of Education, Treasury, Ener-
gy, Interior and Transportation used such unau-
thorized files, as did NASA and the General
Services Administration, the report said.
It did not estimate how many people may have
visited the sites. But the company Jupiter Media
Metrix, which tracks Internet usage, says govern-
ment sites are popular. The company estimates
that 3.5 million Internet users went to NASA's
Web site in March, and 2.2 million people visited
the Education Department's site.
Ari Schwartz, senior policy analyst for the
Center for Democracy and Technology, which
follows privacy issues, called the report trou-
"Generally when we think about privacy and
the government, we want to make sure that the
government is transparent and does protect priva-
cy over and above the rest of the Internet and the
rest of the private and nonprofit sector," Schwartz
His organization was one of several that
signed a letter yesterday urging the Bush admin-
istration to promptly fill a post created by Presi-
dent Clinton to see that agencies adhere to
The new report was released by Sen. Fred
Thompson (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee. He said he
was upset by the findings and planned to intro-
duce legislation that would establish a commis-
sion to examine government privacy practices.
Congress ordered all agency inspector gener-
als to investigate the use of unauthorized tracking
devices after the General Accounting Office
reported in October that about a dozen agency
websites were using the technology even though
the Clinton administration issued a memo
restricting the practice in June.
The only time agencies are supposed to be
able to use such software is when there is a com-
pelling need and agency heads say it is OK.
those instances, the websites must explicitly ter
Internet users about the practice.
Contractors operating websites on behalf of
the government also must abide by the policy.
The White House referred questions to the
Office of Management and Budget, where
spokesman Chris Ullman would say only that the
policy remains in effect and the issue is "some-
thing that we certainly are keeping an eye on."
Bosnian Serb to
face war charges
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -
A Bosnian Serb who was a commander
in the bloody siege of Srebrenica was
jailed at The Hague yesterday-to face
trial on charges he helped massacre
thousands of Muslims, then tried to hide
the deaths by reburying the victims.
Dragan Obrenovic was seized in the
Bosnian town of Zvornik on Sunday,
reportedly by three men and a woman in
civilian clothes, and was spirited to the
U.N. tribunal detention unit before mid-
Obrenovic will be brought before a
panel of U.N. judges in The Hague
later this week to enter a plea. He is
charged with complicity in genocide
and crimes against humanity in the per-
secution and murder of Muslims, in the
biggest massacre in Europe since
World War II.
The White House said U.S. soldiers
participated in the arrest operation car-
ried out by NATO-led peace forces in
Such arrests are an "essential step in
consolidating the peace and promoting
the rule of law in Bosnia," said a White
The action reinforced assurances
Secretary of State Colin Powell last
week that the United States would
remain engaged in the region, despite
President Bush's campaign pledge to
reduce the U.S. commitment there. The
United States contributes 3,350 troops
to the 18,000-strong peacekeeping
force in Bosnia.
Tribunal spokeswoman Florence
Hartmann said U.N. investigators had
interrogated Obrenovic twice i
Bosnia, and issued a seven-pa
indictment April 9 that remained
Obrenovic, the acting commander of
a Bosnian Serb brigade, was indicted
for allegedly participating in the July
1995 attack on Srebrenica, an enclave
with 60,000 residents in eastern Bosnia
that was then under United Nations
protection and guarded by a Dutch gar-
COTONOU, Benin (AP) - A ship
suspected of carrying child slaves
docked here early today, but there was
no immediate sign of such children.
Benin claimed there had been a mixt*
and another, unidentified vessel was
the alleged slave ship.
Social Protection Minister Ramatou
Baba Moussa said the Nigerian-regis-
tered MV Etireno, which was original-
ly believed by Benin and U.N. officials
to to have left Cotonou with the chil-
dren, had been confused with a second
ship, whose name and current location
were unknown. She said the Etireno
did not have any unaccompanied
minors on board.
Moussa's claim could not be inde-
pendently verified, but it drew ques-
tions from aid groups.
"I don't know what to think," said
Nicolas Pron, a senior official with the
U.N. children's fund in Benin. "My
main concern is that the kids are here
and safe, and we will hear if that is the
Pron did not rule out the possibili&
that the Etireno's captain, a Nigeria
with a criminal past, could have earlier
unloaded his human cargo.
The white, 200-foot-long boat pulled
into Cotonou port shortly after 1 a.m.,
as Cabinet ministers, police, soldiers,
journalists and U.N. employees crowd-
ed the dockside.
Dozens of women, a few men and a
handful of children could be seen
through the ship's passenger cabin win-
dows, from which laundry was hanginj
outside, as the boat's Nigerian cre
barked orders in English.
Benin officials said they still needed
to speak to the passengers-and crew
before they could explain the confusion
about the suspected slaves' where-
Moussa said the Etireno left the
commercial capital, Cotonou, clandes-
tinely more than a week ago. It wa%
now returning with an unknown nun
ber of passengers - but no unaccom-
panied children - who had been
refused entry in Gabon because they
did not have the necessary travel docu-
ments, she said.
A second ship arrived in Gabon at
about the same time with about-250