From the Christian Science Monitor:
posted February 24, 2006 at 11:00 a.m.
Report: NSA continues controversial data-mining program
Total Information Awareness projects, shut down by Congress in 2003, funded under different plan.
By Tom Regan
In 2003, Congress voted to shut down a controversial program called Total Information Awareness (TIA). The project, which would have linked major information databases together in order to "hunt for terrorists," was shut down primarily because of privacy concerns, but also because its main advocate was Adm. John Poindexter, known for his involvement with the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. Wired.com reported at the time that US senators from both parties, saying "they feared government snooping against ordinary Americans," voted to block funding for TIA.
It now appears, however, that the controversial program, which was first brought to the public's attention in 2002, is continuing. The National Journal reported Thursday that TIA "was stopped in name only" and has been continued within the National Security Agency (NSA), the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of US citizens in the domestic wiretapping scandal.
Research under the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program – which developed technologies to predict terrorist attacks by mining government databases and the personal records of people in the United States – was moved from the Pentagon's research-and-development agency to another group, which builds technologies primarily for the National Security Agency, according to documents obtained by National Journal and to intelligence sources familiar with the move. The names of key projects were changed, apparently to conceal their identities, but their funding remained intact, often under the same contracts.
The National Journal reports that the Pentagon transferred two of the most important TIA components of TIA to Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA), located at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. One piece was the Information Awareness Prototype System. It helped extract, analyze and disseminate data collected under the project. Once the Senate cut off funding, ARDA stepped forward to fund the program and it was given a new name "Basketball." All references to TIA were dropped.
The other key component of the original plan was known as Genoa II, "which focused on building information technologies to help analysts and policy makers anticipate and pre-empt terrorist attacks." It was renamed "Topsail." While Topsail was active as late as October of 2005, intelligence sources indicate that its funding, also from ARDA, may be in question.
This is not the first time the story of continued funding for TIA programs has surfaced. The Associated Press first reported two years ago to the day that the government is still financing research to create powerful tools that could mine millions of public and private records for information about terrorists despite an uproar last year over fears it might ensnare innocent Americans."
"The whole congressional action looks like a shell game," said Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks work by US intelligence agencies. "There may be enough of a difference for them to claim TIA was terminated while for all practical purposes the identical work is continuing."
The issue resurfaced again earlier this month when, during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Ron Hayden (D) of Oregon, one of the chief critics of TIA, asked John Negroponte, the head of Domestic Security, Robert Mueller, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA, if "Poindexter’s programs are going on somewhere else?"
While Mr. Negroponte and Mr. Mueller said they did not know the answer to the question, Gen. Hayden said he would only answer the question in closed session.
In early February, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the government's plan for a massive data sweep that "could troll news, blogs, even e-mails." The program that would do this is called "ADVISE," Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement.
ADVISE "looks very much like TIA," [Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation] writes in an e-mail. "There's the same emphasis on broad collection and pattern analysis."
But [Peter Sand, director of privacy technology], the DHS official, emphasizes that privacy protection would be built-in. "Before a system leaves the department there's been a privacy review.... That's our focus."
Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and one-time Contributing Editor of National Review, writes in the liberal website Counterpunch that the repeated assaults on America's freedoms under the guise of "fighting terrorism" mean that "Americans have forgotten what it takes to remain free. Instead, every ideology, every group is determined to use government to advance its agenda. As the government's power grows, the people are eclipsed."
Americans need to understand that many interests are using the "war on terror" to achieve their agendas.
The Federalist Society is using the "war on terror" to achieve its agenda of concentrating power in the executive and packing the Supreme Court to this effect.
The neocons are using the war to achieve their agenda of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
Police agencies are using the war to remove constraints on their powers and to make themselves less accountable.
Republicans are using the war to achieve one-party rule--theirs.
The Bush administration is using the war to avoid accountability and evade constraints on executive powers.
Arms industries, or what President Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex," are using the war to fatten profits.
Terrorism experts are using the war to gain visibility.
Security firms are using it to gain customers.
Readers can add to this list at will. The lack of debate gives carte blanche to these agendas.
Finally, the National Journal also reports that ARDA is being taken out of the NSA and placed under the control of Negroponte. It will renamed "Disruptive Technologies Office," a reference to a term of art describing any new invention that suddenly, and often dramatically, replaces established procedures."