Saturday, February 25, 2006

Data Mining by any other name

National Journal's Shane Harris reports that the Total Information Awareness Program lives on despite Congress' attempt to kill it.

Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here, but this seems like another example of the Bush administration attacking the separation of powers that is fundamental to the Constitution and flouting the laws.
A controversial counter-terrorism program, which lawmakers halted more than two years ago amid outcries from privacy advocates, was stopped in name only and has quietly continued within the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of U.S. citizens.... 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.

It is no secret that some parts of TIA lived on behind the veil of the classified intelligence budget. However, the projects that moved, their new code names, and the agencies that took them over haven't previously been disclosed. Sources aware of the transfers declined to speak on the record for this story because, they said, the identities of the specific programs are classified....

But earlier this month, at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, one of TIA's strongest critics questioned whether intelligence officials knew that some of its programs had been moved to other agencies. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and FBI Director Robert Mueller whether it was "correct that when [TIA] was closed, that several ... projects were moved to various intelligence agencies.... I and others on this panel led the effort to close [TIA]; we want to know if Mr. Poindexter's programs are going on somewhere else."

Negroponte and Mueller said they didn't know. But Negroponte's deputy, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who until recently was director of the NSA, said, "I'd like to answer in closed session." Asked for comment, Wyden's spokeswoman referred to his hearing statements.

The NSA is now at the center of a political firestorm over President Bush's program to eavesdrop on the phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States who the agency believes are connected to terrorists abroad. While the documents on the TIA programs don't show that their tools are used in the domestic eavesdropping, and knowledgeable sources wouldn't discuss the matter, the TIA programs were designed specifically to develop the kind of "early-warning system" that the president said the NSA is running....

[The Advanced Research and Development Activity or] ARDA [which inherited the progeny of TIA] now is undergoing some changes of its own. The outfit is being taken out of the NSA, placed under the control of Negroponte's office, and given a new name. It will be called the "Disruptive Technology Office," a reference to a term of art describing any new invention that suddenly, and often dramatically, replaces established procedures. Officials with the intelligence director's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. |National Journal|

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