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Moms’ group fights military recruiting database

Lenita Powers/RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL | July 5 2005

Cindy Bowen of Reno knows how the military has turned the heat up on its recruiting efforts since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

“All through the last semester of high school, my son had every branch of the service trying to recruit him,” she said of Zeke Bowen, who graduated with honors from Hug High School in May and will go to college.

To recruit high school and college students, the Department of Defense has set up a database with detailed personal information that Bowen and other parents say is an invasion of privacy. That information includes students’ Social Security numbers, grade-point averages, fields of study, ethnicity and e-mail addresses.

“I mean that’s ridiculous,” Bowen said. “I look at it this way: If they want to institute the draft, let them institute the draft, but that’s just too much information.”

Mothers Against the Draft, a national organization headed by Janine Hansen of Reno, is urging students to opt out of having that information used to try to get them to join the military.

Hansen said students or the parents of minor students can download a form off MAD’s Web site that lets them opt out of having their information used for recruitment purposes.

They also can download a Freedom of Information Act form to find out what information the database currently has on a student.

“This is Big Brother sticking (his) hands into your family, trying to bypass parents in order to recruit your children and put them on the front line in Iraq,” Hansen said. “We aren’t a communist country that we should have the government monitoring us and collecting information on us.”

Compiling such a database to track Americans is illegal and violates student and family privacy laws, Hansen said.

A 1982 congressional mandate, however, made it legal, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. She said recent reports that the Department of Defense is collecting students’ personal information for a massive new database are not correct. The new database is the result of consolidating recruitment information formerly gathered separately by the different branches of the military, she said.

“They were duplicating efforts, and we said, ‘We’ll do it more efficiently and save the taxpayers’ money,’” she said.

A private marketing firm, BeNow of Wakefield, Mass., was hired in 2002 as a subcontractor to warehouse the data and compile the personal information to make sure it is not duplicated, Krenke said.

Under the Military Selective Service Act of 1967, male residents of the United States ages 18 to 25 already are required to register with Selective Service by providing their names, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

As of May 2005, under the Department of Defense’s Joint Advertising and Marketing Research Recruitment consolidated database, the following information will be collected on high school students 16 through 18 and college students: name, birth date, address, Social Security number (where available), e-mail address, ethnicity, telephone number, high school name, graduation date, grade-point average, education level, college intent (if documented), military interest (if documented), field of study and current college attending and armed services vocational aptitude tests, where available.

Those 18 or older and the parents of students 16 to 17 can request that personal information not be used for recruitment purposes, but the information will remain on the database so recruiters know who does do not want to be contacted, Krenke said.

Steve Mulvenon, spokesman for the Washoe County School District, said schools are required to release students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers to military recruiters unless their parents sign the opt-out form sent every year in back-to-school information packets.

Mulvenon said the district will have to check with its legal adviser if military recruiters now are requesting more detailed student information such as Social Security numbers and ethnicity.

“There’s a lot of discussion these days about Social Security numbers, breaches of security and getting that type of information outside local institutions,” Mulvenon said. “Potentially, this is a huge issue fraught with danger.”

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