Total/Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA): Is It Truly Dead?

EFF: It's Too Early to Tell

In September 2003, Congress ended funding for Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) by passing HR 2658, a fiscal 2004 Defense appropriations bill that has yet to be signed by the President. But is TIA truly dead? EFF believes that it is too early to tell.

First, the provision that de-funds TIA does not apply to "the program hereby authorized for processing, analysis, and collaboration tools for counterterrorism foreign intelligence...for which funds are expressly provided in the National Foreign Intelligence Program for counterterrorism foreign intelligence purposes."

Translation? The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) may continue to research and develop "processing, analysis, and collaboration tools," so long as they are not used within the United States. These tools could include controversial "dataveillance" systems such as Genoa II, Genisys, Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery (EELD), and Scalable Social Network Analysis (SSNA).

While EFF is pleased that these tools will not be developed specifically for domestic use, we are concerned that their development for foreign intelligence purposes continues to pose civil liberties risks -- especially since it appears that they are to be developed under a classified "black budget" with little, if any, public accountability.

Second, while Congress eliminated funding for the Office of Information Awareness, it also expressly allowed several former TIA programs to continue, including the Bio-Event Advanced Leading Indicator Recognition Technology (Bio-ALIRT), Rapid Analytic Wargaming, Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment, and Automated Speech and Text Exploitation in Multiple Languages (including Babylon and Symphony). Of particular concern is Bio-ALIRT, which appears to incorporate dataveillance technologies in its mission model.

Finally, TIA was never the only domestic dataveillance program. EFF is campaigning to stop implementation of the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System (CAPPS II), which gathers personal information from unidentified government databases as well as commercial data sources. But CAPPS II is only one domestic surveillance initiative, and neither it nor the other programs in development is subject to the TIA "overseas-only" provision.

Two such domestic initiatives are the Novel Intelligence from Massive Data (NIMD) and the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (Matrix). NIMD is an initiative of the little-known Intelligence Community Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA). Its focus on "massive data" resembles several TIA projects.

Matrix, meanwhile, is a state-level program supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, with more federal funding reportedly earmarked for the program by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Matrix aims to give state law enforcement agencies across the nation a powerful new tool for analyzing the personal records of both criminals and ordinary Americans. According to an article in the Washington Post (August 6, 2003, p. A01), the program "would let authorities . . . instantly find the name and address of every brown-haired owner of a red Ford pickup truck in a 20-mile radius of a suspicious event."

In light of these ongoing threats to citizens' privacy and civil liberties, EFF concludes that even if TIA is "dead," the need for continued Congressional oversight and a strong regulatory framework remains great.

We ask for a status report on the tools being developed for foreign surveillance, as well as on TIA biometric programs including Human Identification at a Distance (HID) and Activity Recognition and Monitoring (ARM).

We also strongly support Senator Russ Feingold's (D-WI) Data Mining Moratorium Act (S. 188) and Senator Ron Wyden's (D-OR) Citizens' Protection in Federal Databases Act of 2003 (S. 1484), and we urge constituents to join us in this support.

For More Information: