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[] White House protests cuts on terrorist data,

White House protests cuts on terrorist data
By Audrey Hudson
Published July 16, 2003


The Bush administration is opposing language tucked inside a spending
bill that strips funding of the Terrorist Information Awareness
program and puts restrictions on future deployment of the data-mining
computer system.
"This provision would deny an important potential tool in the war on
terrorism," said the statement of administration policy, issued by the
president's Office of Management and Budget this week.
"The administration urges the Senate to remove the provision that
prohibits any research and development for the Terrorism Information
Awareness [TIA] program," the statement said.
The language is contained in the defense spending bill for fiscal 2004
and the Senate is expected to vote on the full bill this week. A
similar version passed the House 399-19 on July 8.
The program is being designed by the Pentagon to track terrorists, but
has been widely criticized by privacy advocates as a supersnooping
computer system that threatens civil liberties.
No single member of the Senate Appropriations Committee is taking
responsibility for the language that bans spending on any element of
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program.
However, Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, originally authored a second
provision requiring congressional approval before any aspect of the
program can be deployed.
"Senator Wyden's goal has always been for Congress to play the role
that it should and that is to protect the privacy and civil liberties
of Americans that Congress represents, while at the same time
vigorously fighting terrorism," said Carol Guthrie, Mr. Wyden's
The bill would also require congressional approval of what kind of
data or information is ultimately run through the program to identify
terrorist traits.
The project was originally called the Total Information Awareness
program and will compile and sift through public and private records
including financial and travel documents. The program is headed by
retired Navy Vice Adm. John Poindexter.
The Senate version differs from the House version, which does not
eliminate spending, so the final language will not be determined until
a single bill is hammered out in a conference committee.
A staffer for the House Appropriations Committee said full funding was
not axed because some lawmakers felt it was "worth at least exploring
for the potential element of intelligence gathering with restraints."
Mr. Wyden's provision was first attached to this year's omnibus
spending bill and was included on the defense spending bill to ensure
congressional oversight for the 2004 fiscal year.
That language required TIA to submit a report to Congress explaining
the proposed technology and how it would be used. The report was
delivered in May but raised new questions as to what kind of data
would be used.
TIA officials say they will only use data that is "legally obtained,"
but many critics fear that will include information originally
collected by marketing companies to profile consumers.
That type of information could include political and religious
contributions, health problems and medicines purchased, and details
about private property.
The $368.6 billion defense spending bill includes an average military
pay raise of 4.15 percent plus an increase in the housing allowance.
The defense health program is funded at $15.7 billion. Another $74
billion is for procurement, and total funding for ammunition is
increased by $92.7 million.
The administration called the overall bill "fiscally responsible" but
said that falls $2.5 billion short of President Bush's request for
discretionary spending.
The administration also complained that the Senate's proposed increase
of $1.2 billion for procurement and $1.6 billion for research,
development, test and evaluation goes toward a number of unrequested
programs the administration does not support.
"These increases come at the expense of more important
transformational programs included in the president's budget, such as
the Space Based Radar program, advanced military satellite
communications, and the Ballistic Missile Defense System interceptor,"
the administration's statement said.

Copyright © 2003 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.


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