Thursday, December 22, 2005

Are They Kidding?

Oh, please.
Privacy Laws Keep Families Apart: "In early October, as leads began to dwindle, the center requested access to FEMA's list of the 2.8 million families that had applied for federal disaster assistance. FEMA balked, saying it was illegal to share the private information. Lawyers at the center argued that because it was working on behalf of the Justice Department 'it would fall within one of the exceptions of the Privacy Act for this limited purpose,' Allen said. For years, investigators for the center have had access to FBI databases.

On Oct. 25, the center provided the list of 1,600 children missing at the time to FEMA and made its request for the database in writing. On Nov. 23, nearly three months after Katrina hit, FEMA rejected it.

FEMA did, however, run the center's names of missing children through its computers. It found 652 instances in which at least one identifier -- such as a surname or address -- matched an entry on the center's missing persons list, Andrews said. FEMA staff spent the weekend of Dec. 3 calling all 652. They reached 505 and made about 80 'exact matches,' she said.

But experts at the center and the FBI said FEMA's social workers are not trained to resolve difficult cases, such as those in which the custody of the child is in dispute.

'That's not what FEMA's business is; that's what the national center does and what the FBI does,' said David Johnson, chief of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit. 'I would want somebody who knows something about children's issues from a criminal perspective talking to the person and child, doing more verification.'"
Common sense does seem to be in short supply, doesn't it?

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