Today's LettersL: Work together to prevent identity theft

Published March 19, 2007

A routine check of your bank account turns up large cash withdrawals you don't remember making. A credit card bill arrives with tens of thousands of dollars in charges you never made. The bank denies your application for a loan because your credit rating has been ruined, despite your flawless financial records.

All of these scenarios have become painfully real for the more than 16,000 Floridians who were victims of identity theft last year.

Three measures in the Florida House of Representatives are aimed at attacking identity theft. Bills sponsored by Reps. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, and John Legg, R-Port Richey, are designed to protect individuals from having their personal identifying information distributed without their permission. Their bills deserve the public's consideration.

I encourage interested Floridians to examine these proposals carefully and to help us design legislation to protect our fundamental, constitutional rights to privacy.

HB 1117 will protect seniors from those who target them for identity theft. HB 1213 requires strict privacy guidelines for personal identifying information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, and mandates that the highest level of confidentiality be given to this sensitive information, even if the information is collected legally. Also known as an "opt-in" requirement, this bill would require banks, hospitals, online service providers and other services that require our private information to ask our permission before obtaining our personal data. HB 1211 makes it a misdemeanor to distribute personal information about a person without his or her permission.

Some news organizations have expressed their concerns about certain aspects of these bills. Journalists depend on their ability to collect personal information to conduct their investigations and follow up on sources and leads. It is certainly not the intent of Proctor or Legg to stop members of the press from doing their job. A free and open press is part of the foundation of our nation, and we should be diligent in our defense of the First Amendment.

Our system of participatory democracy is strengthened when all groups come to the table seeking solutions, not just airing criticisms and overreactions. I encourage the opponents of these measures to work with us in crafting the best way to maintain the necessary privacy protections for Floridians while protecting the rights of the press to do its job.

Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, majority whip of the Florida House of Representatives

Advocacy group for Muslims gets questions March 14, story

Attacks seek to silence Muslims

This New York Times article on the challenges facing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) exposed the relentless efforts by "a small band of critics" made up of racist right-wing and neo-Zionist extremists who seek to silence and marginalize American Muslims and groups that represent them by exploiting anti-Muslim fears in our nation.

CAIR's purpose is very clear. It is a grass roots organization that serves as America's largest and most visible Muslim civil rights group. CAIR is to the Muslim community what the NAACP is to the African-American community or what the ADL is to the Jewish community.

For the record, CAIR unequivocally condemns terror attacks targeting people of all faiths and in all areas of the world.

CAIR operates under the strict guidelines of its core values. These values include: support for freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and a commitment to supporting policies that promote dialogue, civil rights and diversity in America and worldwide.

Funding for CAIR chapters is no secret: Monies are raised here and spent here, with not a penny of it going overseas.

It is important to note that not a single active law enforcement official has ever accused CAIR of any wrongdoing. CAIR enjoys positive relations with officials from city hall to Capitol Hill, from the police to the FBI.

With this in mind, it is obvious that the attacks against America's largest and most visible Muslim civil rights group have nothing to do with national security but rather are rooted in hatred toward Muslims and Arab-Americans.

The real "scrutiny" should be directed toward the motives of the Islamophobes who are generating these baseless accusations. Their politically motivated attacks are meant to silence the voice of American Muslims and to promote the only agenda they deem acceptable - their own.

Ahmed Bedier, Tampa executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Tampa

Advocacy group for Muslims gets questions March 14, story

CAIR causes concern

The St. Petersburg Times has performed a significant service to readers seeking to understand our continuing terrorist problems. The reprint of the New York Times article questioning the role of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is of major significance.

When CAIR first emerged in the Tampa Bay area claiming to be an Islamic advocacy group, we pressed for the answers to two questions. First, what is the source of your funding? Second, what is your mission? Response to both appropriate questions were evasive. The local CAIR representative did shrug off the funding question, indicating that a million dollars was received from one Saudi.

It should be noted that leading terrorist experts Steven Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Steven Schwartz all concur that CAIR is Saudi funded with the mission to spread the extreme fundamentalism known as Wahhabism into the United States.

CAIR has made inroads in our Tampa Bay community as a result of a very charming and articulate spokesman.

In these days of political correctness, a number of churches and temples have been taken in by his charm.

In conclusion, we repeat the admonition: Let us not collaborate in our own demise.

Norman N. Gross, Ph.D., president, PRIMER (Promoting Responsibility In Middle East Reporting), Palm Harbor

We need CAIR

As a Christian pastor, I support the work of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This is a national group with a very balanced and effective voice that speaks up for the rights of all peoples, and especially Muslims in the United States. It is akin to the NAACP. I think that because it is so effective, it has been targeted.

I have worked with CAIR locally in the Tampa Bay area and nationally, supporting interfaith relations and human rights. I find the leaders to be clear, moderate and, at the same time, very articulate in defending Muslim-American rights. We need groups like CAIR in these fear-mongering times.

Warren Clark, pastor, Temple Terrace

Report the positive March 13, letter

Positive problems

This letter complained that the "liberal" media are at fault for seldom reporting any advances or good news from Iraq.

There are two good reasons for that.

1. Reporters have stated that there is little good news or advances to report.

2. When they report on any progress or project completed, said project is promptly attacked and destroyed.

Marilyn Day, Beverly Hills

Cheney's brain March 16, Charles Krauthammer column

A cunning Cheney

I can believe Vice President Dick Cheney's brain is one many political pundits are willing to explore.

However, with any perceptive observation of his vice presidential conduct, one can reasonably conclude he does have a heart defect but not a brain defect.

He is the most politically powerful vice president this country has ever had, and therein lies this country's concern for this unbridled power.

Russell Lee Johnson, St. Petersburg

Show some sacrifice

I recently read a columnist who took the position that there are not too many people who are really interested in supporting the imperialistic war we are waging in Iraq, other than putting cute little bows on bumper stickers that say, "Support Our Troops." Other than the military no one seems to really care, no one is really willing to personally sacrifice for this war. No one really seems to care that we are killing three or more, sometimes many more, of our fighting forces every day, that Iraqis are dying every day by the hundreds or that the cost of this war is astronomically high.

You want the war to end? Well it's very simple. We all begin to make a sacrifice. Put a 50-cent-a-gallon war tax on the gasoline that we so recklessly use. It wouldn't put a stop to the killing right away, but it would begin to pay for the cost of the war, and we would put our real support behind our military forces in a way that would be completely understood.

Not only would we begin to pay for this ridiculous war, but I'm willing to bet that it would be over in less than six months.

Carroll G. Stowe, captain, U.S. Air Force, retired, Safety Harbor