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February 11, 2003

The Total Information Awareness System

The Total Information Awareness System is the key project being developed by the Information Awareness Office (IAO), under the umbrella of DARPA (grandfather of Internet) - ultimately, under the Pentagon. The objective of TIA is to uncover information about existing or potential terrorist activities through the data mining of such disparate sources as credit card, medical, school and travel records. Privacy advocates and civil libertarians are naturally a mite suspicious, especially since the overseer for TIA is John Poindexter. Perhaps you recall the name - he was a key figure with a conviction (later overturned because of an immunity deal) from the Iran-Contra affair. A recent press release indicates that "TIA has never collected, and has no plan or intent to collect privately held consumer data on U.S. citizens."

A logo had been created for the IAO. There's a pyramid, an all-seeing eye, and a Latin motto "Scientia Est Potentia" which translates to "Knowledge is Power." Criticism, ridicule or both have caused the logo to be withdrawn, or perhaps scrapped altogether. Because we Americans have a mordant sense of humor (well, some of us), especially as to Big Brother type organizations, an enterprising fellow has made available the opportunity to purchase t-shirts, caps, mugs, even thongs emblazoned with the logo. Profits are donated to the ACLU. Click here to buy something, if you dare.

UPDATE: In today's NY Times [2.12], Conferees in Congress Bar Using a Pentagon Project on Americans. According to the article, "House and Senate negotiators have agreed that a Pentagon project intended to detect terrorists by monitoring Internet e-mail and commercial databases for health, financial and travel information cannot be used against Americans. The conferees also agreed to restrict further research on the program without extensive consultation with Congress." Says Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) of the Pentagon, "They've got some crazy people over there." So TIA is in check, for now.

Yours, &c., LC | 05:28 PM | Legal , Librariana