Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 23, 2006

National Journal: TIA lives

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christian Beckner on February 23, 2006

The National Journal has a very solid piece of reporting on the process by which the Total Information Awareness project at DARPA (which Congress cut off funding for in 2003) went over to the classified world:

Research under the Defense Department’s Total Information Awareness program — which developed technologies to predict terrorist attacks by mining government databases and the personal records of people in the United States — was moved from the Pentagon’s research-and-development agency to another group, which builds technologies primarily for the National Security Agency, according to documents obtained by National Journal and to intelligence sources familiar with the move. The names of key projects were changed, apparently to conceal their identities, but their funding remained intact, often under the same contracts.

The story is full of interesting details, introducing the codenames of the ex-TIA programs in their new incarnations (Genoa II, Topsail, Basketball) and providing a lot of convincing evidence that ties TIA contractual activities together with very similar programs at the NSA-linked Advanced Research and Development Activity. Hopefully the revelations in this story will encourage these programs, if they continue, to strengthen their internal privacy controls – something that was a key element of the original vision for TIA.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 24, 2006 @ 10:17 am

One of the typical side-effects of classification of programs, functions, and activities is that such programs, functions, and activites are no longer fully vetted legally and never subjected to court review since no one has standing even if the program, function, or activity is leaked. If a democracy and Consitutional framework are to be maintained perhaps such a legal vetting would assist in that end. This of course would require vetting and giving access to the lawyers which is usually viewed as an unnecessary expense. Remember the Attorney General is not a statutory member of the National Security Council and only Bobby Kennedy and Ed Meese have sat as permanent “Ex Officio” members. Perhaps that should be changed and it came within one vote of being passed by the Senate in a bill introduced by Fritz Hollings before he retired. The secret government is swallowing the unclassified government in funding and staffing. When will that trend be reversed?

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