MARY SANCHEZ

Stoking fears of Big Brother in Missouri

Updated: 2013-04-21T00:23:29Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

Gov. Jay Nixon is in cahoots with federal officials who want to take your guns away. But first they must create a massive database of gun owners.

Or so some wish you to believe. That’s the fear pushing the tit-for-tat between state officials over new driver’s license procedures.

It’s all about Big Brother coming after law-abiding citizens.

Don’t laugh. Missouri just handed people who believe this stuff a thread to weave their conspiracy theories.

It began in December, when the Department of Revenue began using new equipment to digitally scan and record information from concealed-carry permits when issuing driver’s licenses.

Monday, the backlash apparently caused the revenue director to resign.

Tuesday, the governor folded. The state will no longer scan concealed-carry permits. Nixon previously insisted that there was no “mysterious” database.

Except that there was, sort of.

In Senate hearings last week, the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol admitted his office had obtained an electronic listing of Missouri’s concealed-carry permits and given it to investigators for the Social Security Administration. The feds were trying to cross-check files to catch people fraudulently filing for disability benefits.

Here’s an inconvenient truth for the conspiracy buffs: The data was encrypted. It was no use to the federal investigators, so it was destroyed.

But the fact that the state was using a government contractor — Morpho Trust USA — added fuel to some people’s fire. The company works with other federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Missouri law, intent on shielding citizens from privacy intrusion, restricts the use of biometrics, such as facial recognition. Morpho uses these things.

See how the dots get connected?

It’s a rather winding road of thought, but one that is convenient for legislators wanting to slam the Democratic governor.

Republican legislators have called for an audit of the Department of Revenue. A lawsuit was filed and threats of subpoenas made.

This saga is playing out as the nation is reeling from terrorism at the Boston Marathon and ricin-laced letters sent to the president and a member of Congress.

Technology advancements like biometrics will continue to collide with privacy concerns for Americans. One person’s red flag of a privacy violation is another’s sense of security. What’s not needed is a fanning of the conspiracy flames purely for political gain.

Conspiracy theories rest on perceived alliances, strident goals and deep levels of communication among many people and agencies.

Unwanted outcomes do happen in government dealings, as this episode shows.

But the reasons are more likely to be a lack of communication and clarity among agency heads, not conspiracy. Really, government isn’t this organized.

And Jay Nixon is eating crow as proof.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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