A. plenty of “Americans,” have already been arrested and detained under the homeland security act to make this entire idea scary enough.
Pentagon Defends Data Search Plan
By Ryan Singel
Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,58936,00.html
02:00 AM May. 21, 2003 PT
The Pentagon submitted a report to Congress on Tuesday that said the Total Information Awareness program is not the centralized spying database its critics say it is.
In fact, according to the report, the Total Information Awareness program is not even the Total Information Awareness program anymore.
Instead, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which administers the program, has changed the name to “Terrorism Information Awareness.”
The agency said the original name “created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens,” according to its website.
The 108-page report (PDF) and summary (PDF) offer details on various components of the program, which has generated controversy due to concerns about its impact on civil liberties.
The report stresses that “safeguarding the privacy and civil liberties of Americans is a bedrock principle.” It also says the project is still in its early stages of development, although it revealed that the Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery project, part of TIA, has been used to analyze and find relationships in information received from interrogations of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
However, some critics of the plan were not convinced by promises to protect against abuses.
“The report is disappointing — after more than a hundred pages, you don’t know anything more about whether TIA will work or whether your civil liberties will be safe against it,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “DARPA is constantly trying to assuage privacy concerns. Their mantra is, ‘We always operate within current law.’”
The purpose of TIA is to identify potential terrorists by comparing information in a broad range of databases that might offer clues, according to DARPA.
DARPA often has cited the example of using TIA to prevent a truck bomb attack by searching for patterns indicating a group of foreigners who are traveling together, renting trucks and buying materials that could be used as explosives.
Testing such a scenario would require the system to have access to credit-card records, airline itineraries and car-rental records.
An amendment by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) required the Department of Defense to submit an accounting of the program’s objectives, components and privacy implications by Tuesday. If DARPA had failed to do so, the program’s funding would have been cut off.
Wyden’s amendment also prohibited the government’s use of the system on Americans without first getting congressional approval, a stipulation unaffected by Tuesday’s report.
TIA’s broad-based opposition, which ranges from the American Civil Liberties Union on the left to the American Conservative Union on the right, says the system could be misused to spy on U.S. citizens, that data in commercial and government databases is notoriously incorrect and that even the slightest percentage of false positives in the system could lead to thousands of Americans being erroneously investigated.
“It goes against our very character as a nation to accept that anybody is guilty until proven innocent in America,” said Lori Waters, executive director of the Eagle Forum, a conservative political organization. “And, that’s exactly what Total Information Awareness does. It makes us all summary suspects, and does so without any guarantee that it will catch the bad guys.”
The report denied that the government is using records of Americans’ daily lives to test the system.
“TIA’s research and testing activities are conducted using either real information that the Federal Government has already legally obtained under existing legal regimes, or synthetic, wholly artificial information generated in the laboratory about imaginary persons engaged in imaginary transactions,” the report said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the leading Republicans pushing for oversight of the project, seemed satisfied after an initial review.
“It’s a good sign that DARPA appears to have embraced, in its words, ‘safeguarding the privacy and the civil liberties of Americans [as] a bedrock principle,’” said Grassley. “I’ll continue my aggressive oversight of this project to make sure that DARPA continues to live by this principle.”
Others were less convinced by the Pentagon report.
“If TIA is relying on personal information contained in databases to determine whether someone is a suspect, what recourse does the person have whose information has been entered incorrectly?” asked Lisa Dean, director of technology policy at Free Congress Foundation. “They would be labeled a suspect by an all-knowing system that made a mistake in what it knows.”
James X. Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said Congress should be applauded for requiring this report. “But this is only the beginning of the oversight process,” he said. “Before any data mining is implemented, Congress needs to ensure that it is subject to clear rules and checks and balances. Currently, the privacy laws simply don’t address this kind of thing.”
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