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[] WT 17.01.03: Lawmakers Seek To Limit TIA Reach,

Washington Times
January 17, 2003
Pg. 5

Lawmakers Seek To Limit TIA Reach

Threaten to pull 'Big Brother' funds

By Audrey Hudson, The Washington Times

The Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program is under attack on 
Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are threatening to pull funding or kill the 
data-mining system legislatively.

A proposed amendment to the omnibus spending bill now before the Senate 
would prohibit the use of funds for research, development, testing and 
evaluation on the program's technology.

Dubbed a "Big Brother" program by critics, it would create a database of 
public and private transactions in an effort to identify terrorists. The 
TIA program was established quietly last year by retired Vice Adm. John 
Poindexter and angered some Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"They would be in a position to look at education, travel and medical 
records, and develop risk profiles for millions of Americans in the quest 
to examine questionable conduct and certainly suspicious activity that 
would generate concern for the safety of the American people," said Sen. 
Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat.

"I am of the view the Senate has a special obligation to be vigilant in 
this area so we do not approve actions or condone actions by this 
particular office that could compromise the bedrock of this nation, our 
Constitution," said Mr. Wyden, sponsor of the amendment.

The amendment requires the defense secretary, attorney general and CIA 
director to submit a report to Congress explaining in detail how funding 
will be used and the program's effect on privacy and civil liberties.

Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, yesterday introduced a bill 
to place a moratorium on data mining in the Defense and Homeland Security 
departments until it could be reviewed by Congress.

"This unchecked system is a dangerous step that threatens one of the values 
we are fighting for freedom," Mr. Feingold said.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, 
said the program has been authorized by the Armed Services and 
Appropriations committees, which already have oversight responsibility.

"The Armed Services Committee has pretty good oversight on that now, so in 
a general way Congress seems to be well-satisfied," the spokesman said.

Adm. Poindexter has refused interviews regarding the program, but the TIA 
program issued a statement on its Web site stating it is not creating a 
"supercomputer" to snoop into private lives.

The project is described as "an experimental prototype system that consists 
of three parts language translation technologies, data search and pattern 
recognition technologies, and advanced collaborative and decision support 
tools," the statement said.

If the five-year project is successful, "the Department of Homeland 
Security will consult with Congress to determine whether the TIA system 
should be implemented for domestic use."

The statement said safeguards are in place to prevent privacy violations 
against American citizens, but does not say what those safeguards entail.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and incoming chairman of the 
Finance Committee, asked the Defense Department inspector general in 
November to review the program.

"I am at a loss to understand why [Defense] resources are being spent on 
research for domestic law enforcement," Mr. Grassley said in a letter to 
Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Grassley said the senator wanted to see the full 
inspector general's report before deciding if legislation is needed.

However, preliminary findings of the report have been shared with the 
senator and "nothing so far has alleviated any concerns Mr. Grassley has," 
the spokeswoman said.

Several civil liberties groups Tuesday wrote to congressional leaders 
urging that development of the program be stopped.

"TIA would put the details of Americans' daily lives under the scrutiny of 
government agents, opening the door to a massive domestic surveillance 
system," the letter said.

The letter was signed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, 
American Conservative Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for 
Tax Reform, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for National 
Security Studies, Eagle Forum, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free 
Congress Foundation.

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