Friday, May 12, 2006

It's Baaack!

"TIA may have died on paper, But it got parceled out to various other agencies, including the NSA."

The San Francisco Chronicle is offering a good argument that the phone call data that the NSA is gathering almost surely is being used for "Data Mining" as originally envisioned by the now supposedly defunct Total Information Awareness program

Government interest in data mining increased sharply after the Sept. 11 attacks. Unlike the private sector, intelligence officials began exploring ways to use the technique to identify and track individuals suspected of terrorist links. In 2002, the Department of Defense, through the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) launched the "Total Information Awareness" project -- later changed to "Terrorism Information Awareness" (TIA) to counter the impression that the program would spy on U.S. citizens.

The goal of TIA, its now defunct Web site explained, was to link certain transactions -- applications for passports, visas, work permits, driver's licenses, automotive rentals, airline ticket purchases, receipts for chemical purchases -- to arrests or suspicious activities.

The program, the brainchild of President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser John Poindexter, collapsed under public and political criticism in 2003. But the idea lived on, said Forno, who lectured on information warfare at the National Defense University from 2001 to 2003 and participated in the 2000 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Information Security Education Research Project.

"TIA may have died on paper," he said. "But it got parceled out to various other agencies, including the NSA."

A January 2006 report (pdf) prepared by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress pointed out that funding for the TIA was prohibited by Congress in 2003. However unspecified parts of the TIA inititive were allowed to be "funded as part of DOD's classified budget, subject to the provisions of the National Foreign Intelligence Program, which restricts the processing and analysis of Information on US citizens."


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