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Total Information Awareness, Renamed as Terrorist Information Awareness, lives on despite Congress trying to kill it

Down below I’ll point you to some sources of information about the Pentagon’s very Orwellian “Total Information Awareness” program. The Pentagon formed an office called the Information Awareness Office (IAO) in 2002, and began vacuum-cleaning the world’s information sources, compiling everything possible about everyone possible.

Citing civil liberties concerns, Congress defunded the program. So the Pentagon shut down the IAO.

But then the TIA program apparently just moved to the National Security Agency, and continues to this day.

On Thursday, Feb 2, 2006, the Senate held a hearing at which Senator Feingold asked some questions about TIA being moved to the spy agencies. Excerpts below.

TIA is allegedly designed to try to identify threats to the USA, using data patterns and any other accessible information, something like how direct mail marketing companies try to predict who might be likely candidates to buy certain products. Take my word for the following: A direct mailing is a great success if as few as 2% or 3% of the households were accurate identified as potential buyers. Hmmm.

Here’s what the Cato Institute said about TIA: “Call it what you want, but Total Information Awareness is the federal government creating a surveillance state to spy on its own citizenry. Of course, the rationale for such draconian action is that it will help catch would-be terrorists before they inflict harm on innocent Americans. This preys on the public’s new sense of vulnerability and places safety above liberty. As Benjamin Franklin said: ‘They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ ”

And so it appears that TIA lives on ……. [see below for more on this]

[UPDATE 2-24-06 — Nixon official John Dean knows about governmental abuse of power. Dean writes a lot of stuff warning about the Bush Administration’s totalitarian tactics. See this for Dean’s analysis of why Americans should not give up privacy for security by tolerating Total Information Awareness.]

Before we get to the links regarding TIA, let’s digress for a moment into the philosophical implications of permitting vast new governmental power

What do you think will happen when all those thousands and thousands of persons get flagged by the government as being a “potential threat” based on their data patterns and the contents of their emails and telephone calls, the magazines they subscribe to, the books they read, the things they buy, who they send letters to, the websites they visit, [and just maybe the contents of their web postings]?

What criteria will the government use to flag a person as a potential threat? How much dissenting can a person do, before the person is identified as a potential threat [for example, does TIA count the number of blog posts in opposition to Bush’s policies, so that when the amount of dissenting reaches a threshhold, you are a threat?]

And what kind of dissent might get us on the list of potential threats? For example, we already know that George W. Bush views dissenting T-Shirt slogans and dissenting Bumper Stickers as threats - for his entire presidency he has refused admission to (and ejected) such persons from his public speeches.

I don’t know about you, but I think THIS CURRENT government will place the threat threshhold far too low to be trusted. I think the government will identify as “threats” those who are not remotely “terrorists”, but instead are merely dissidents - that’s the pattern that authoritarian police state societies tend to follow the world over.

I tend to give credibility to the lessons of history, especially when those lessons have been reinforced time and again. One of those good old historical lessons is that people abuse power.

When governments abuse power, great numbers of people suffer greatly.

[I feel like a true conservative in saying the following] I don’t trust government any farther than I can throw it. Government is People. People are prone to abusing their power. People in Power try to build their little kingdoms and consolidate and protect and increase their Power (as anyone in government or big business can tell you).]

And now for the culmination of our philosophical detour:

Supporters of the Bush Administration’s Police State tactics like to ask questions like the following: “Isn’t it worth it if data-mining and telephone snooping and secret prisons and water-boarding would prevent another 9-11?

If you answer that question “Yes”, then you are deemed a patriot. If you answer that question “No” then Karl Rove and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will call you a traitor [which suggests you should be executed].

The general concept behind philosophical questions such as that one is the following: Let’s balance the harms —- We can stand a little bit of harm if it prevents a LOT MORE harm. That’s generally a decent philosophy.

In the specific example being presented to us by our government, 300 million people are being asked to submit to a surveillance society, give up their sense of privacy, and completely trust the government with all of their information, in order to help the government identify persons who might be a threat to our security. This is the “little harm” supposedly necessary to prevent the “greater harm”.

I am not yet convinced that the harm we are being asked to endure is NECESSARY to prevent the great harm of further terrorist attacks. Here’s why: The 9-11 terrorists could have, and should have, been identified based merely on what our intelligence agencies ALREADY KNEW about those guys [there was no need for TIA, no need for a police state - we already had all the info we needed before the attacks, we just lacked the bodies to process the info, and we lacked the foresight to connect some dots].

The Bush Admininstration has NOT proven that we must become a suveillance state in order to prevent another similarly terrible attack. If you think Bush HAS made his proof, I challenge you to state the proof.

The 9-11 commission layed out enough real facts for it to be pretty clear that we knew enough prior to 9-11 to have prevented the attacks. Even if you disagree with the conclusions of the 9-11 Commission in important ways, at least you must acknowledge that the 9-11 Commission did discover REAL FACTS, facts like how some of the hijackers were already on FBI watch lists, and traveled under their Real Names, and how our agencies did not tell each other about the watch lists, etc……

But Bush hasn’t proven his case yet. Those of you who trust Bush will say: “But Bush CAN’T tell us anything - it would alert the terrorists to our counter-terrorism activities”. Friends, such an attitude of total trust might have worked during a short term crisis, such as World War II. But Bush’s “War on Terrorism” is an admittedly permanent fixture of our society, a never ending “state of war”. Bush is asking us to forget about some of our most cherished concepts of Freedom. The lessons of history are against us.

So much momentum has built up in favor of the Big Brother Surveillance State, that I’m kinda concerned about where it will all lead. I hope you share my concern.

Total Information Awareness, Renamed as Terrorist Information Awareness, lives on despite Congress trying to kill it

A Banned Program Reborn - from DailyKOS

Yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing may have seemed just like a dry-run for Gonzales grilling set to take place next week. Yet there were some startling revelations made that may shed light on just how explosive a scandal this story has become.

Specifically, note this exchange between Senator Wyden and General Hayden:

“A similarly revealing sparring session came when Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, pressed the intelligence officials about whether a controversial Pentagon data-mining program called Total Information Awareness had been effectively transferred to the intelligence agencies after being shut down by Congress.

Mr. Negroponte and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, both said they did not know. Then came the turn of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who headed N.S.A. for six years before becoming the principal deputy director of national intelligence last spring.

“Senator,” General Hayden said, “I’d like to answer in closed session.”

What is Total (or Terrorist) Information Awareness?

Total Information Awareness - from Wikipedia

The Information Awareness Office is a mass surveillance development branch of the United States Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It has a mission to “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness”.


The IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data. In essence, the IAO’s goal is to develop the capacity to recreate a life history of thoughts and movements for any individual on the planet on demand, which some deem necessary to counter the threat of terrorism. Critics claim the very existence of the IAO completely disregards the concept of individual privacy and liberties. They see the organization as far too invasive and prone to abuse.


Congress passed legislation in February of 2003 halting activities of the IAO pending a Congressional report of the office’s activities. Action in the US Congress to attempt to halt a specific internal Department of Defense project occurs extremely rarely, underscoring the grave threat to civil liberties and privacy that many lawmakers perceive in the Information Awareness Office.

DARPA changed the name of the “Total Information Awareness” program to “Terrorist Information Awareness” on May 20, 2003, emphasizing in its report to Congress that the program is not designed to compile dossiers on US citizens, but rather to gather information on terrorist networks. Despite this name change and reassurance, the description of the program’s activities remained essentially the same in the report, and critics continue to see the system as prone to massive Orwellian abuses.

A Senate defense appropriations bill passed unanimously on July 18, 2003 explicitly denies any funding to Terrorist Information Awareness research, which will effectively kill the program if implemented. [3] [4]

The Pentagon office that was developing a vast computerized terrorism surveillance system would be closed and no money could be spent to use those high-tech spying tools against Americans on U.S. soil, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on September 25, 2003.

But they left open the possibility that some or all of the high-powered software under development might be employed by different government offices to gather intelligence from U.S. citizens and others abroad or from foreigners in this country.

Notice the mystical “All Seeing” eyeball in the logo for the IAO

Click here for larger image


END of article
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Total Information Awareness, Renamed as Terrorist Information Awareness, lives on despite Congress trying to kill it

by on Saturday February 4, 2006.
Category: Libertarian, Big Brother & Police State.


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