TIA swaps 'Terrorism' for 'Total'

To quell concerns about possible civil rights and privacy abuses, the Defense Department has renamed its controversial data-mining program.

Total Information Awareness now is Terrorism Information Awareness.

The original name 'created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens,' the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency explained last month in a report to Congress.

That was never the objective, DARPA said. The intent of the DOD initiative 'is to protect U.S. citizens by detecting foreign terrorist threats before an attack. To make this absolutely clear, DARPA has changed the program name.'

The rest of the program remains unchanged.

Into the future

TIA research could lead to 'a revolutionary leap forward in augmenting human performance,' the report said. Its goal is to help investigators 'connect the dots of terrorist-related activity.'

TIA's tool collection would correlate vast amounts of information about individuals from diverse sources. Concerns about the potential for abuse caused Congress to increase its oversight.

Congressional approval is required for any deployment of TIA, which could take until 2007 to roll out a prototype.

DARPA's Information Awareness Office, working with the Army Intelligence and Security Command, has begun the early development phase of the effort. TIA received its first funding, $9.2 million, this year. DOD has requested $20 million for next year and $24.5 million for fiscal 2005.

DARPA described TIA as a 'program of programs':
  • Genysis, to integrate and broaden databases

  • Genysis Privacy Protection, to control access to personal information

  • Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery, to reveal relationships between persons and activities

  • Scalable Social Network Analysis, to distinguish terrorist cells from legitimate groups

  • MisInformation Detection, to uncover lies

  • Human Identification at a Distance, to automate biometric authentication

  • Activity, Recognition and Monitoring, to automatically identify activities observed during surveillance

  • Next Generation Face Recognition, to improve facial recognition technology.

Organizations participating in TIA development include the Army Intelligence and Security Command, CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, DOD Counterintelligence Field Activity, Joint Forces Command, Joint Warfare Analysis Center, National Security Agency, Special Operations Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

As envisioned, TIA would be used by so-called red teams to build scenarios for terrorist attacks, determine what preparations and transactions they would require, and then search for patterns of activity.

On the up and up

During TIA's development, DOD can test its tools using only legally obtained foreign intelligence and fabricated personal data.

Although DARPA assured Congress that 'safeguarding the privacy and the civil liberties of Americans is a bedrock principle,' it acknowledged that some of the component programs could raise significant privacy and civil liberties issues.

The report cites eight pages of references to constitutional, legislative and regulatory privacy safeguards by which TIA will be bound.

'When it comes to analyzing privacy issues, 'Thou shalt not' is good, but 'Thou cannot' is better,' DARPA's report said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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