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2002-08-28

You Thought Precrime Was Just An Orwellian Hollywood Fantasy? Police in Delaware Are Building a Database of Potential Criminals

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I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance to see the Hollywood movie "Minority Report." It has gotten a great deal of media attention because it stars Tom Cruise. But what hasn’t gotten much attention is the movie’s subject: people being arrested for crimes before they commit them.

Maybe you thought this was just a movie, about an Orwellian state not possible in this country today.

But this week Vice President Dick Cheney called for a "pre-emptive" attack on Iraq because Saddam Hussein may eventually acquire nuclear weapons. He presented no evidence to bolster his case.

And it has just emerged that police in Delaware are already creating a database of possible future suspects. The Wilmington Police Department in June formed a "jump squad" comprised of a team of officers who stop "suspicious" individuals and snap their photos. The people the police are stopping haven’t committed a crime. But the database is used in future police lineups. Police are mostly visiting poor neighborhoods.

The news first emerged in local Delaware papers, but has catapulted to the national and international scene.

The ACLU is slamming the program and some city councilors are also opposed. But the Wilmington mayor told the Wilmington News Journal that criticism of the program is "asinine and intellectually bankrupt," and he will not stop the practice.

Tape:

  • Trailer for the movie, 'Minority Report'

Guests:

  • Drewry Nash Fennell, Executive Director of the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union.
  • John Rago, spokesman for Wilmington Mayor James Baker.

Related links:


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