[LINK] Anti-terror computer system plans wide, warrantless access
Sun Nov 10 02:14:36 EST 2002
It seems the US spooks are really getting ready to spook... How long
before little johnnie catches on...
Anti-terror computer system plans wide, warrantless access
By John Markoff
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast
electronic dragnet, searching personal information as part of the hunt for
terrorists around the world - including the United States.
The program director, Vice Adm. John Poindexter, says the system would
provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement with instant access to
information from e-mail and calling records to credit card, banking
transactions and travel records - without a search warrant.
Historically, military and intelligence agencies have not been allowed to
spy on Americans without legal authorization. But Poindexter, national
security adviser in the Reagan administration, has said the government
needs broad new powers to process, store and mine billions of electronic
details of life in the United States.
Poindexter, who has described the plan in public documents and speeches
but declined to be interviewed, has said the government needs to "break
down the stovepipes" that separate commercial and government databases,
allowing teams of intelligence analysts to hunt for hidden patterns of
activity with powerful computers.
"We must become much more efficient and more clever in the ways we find
new sources of data, mine information from the new and old, generate
information, make it available for analysis, convert it to knowledge and
create actionable options," he said in a speech in California earlier this
Poindexter quietly returned to the government in January to take charge of
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Office of Information
Awareness, charged with developing new surveillance technologies in the
wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
To deploy such a system, known as Total Information Awareness, new
legislation would be needed, some of which has been proposed by the Bush
administration in the Homeland Security Act now before Congress. That
legislation would amend the Privacy Act of 1974, which was intended to
limit what government agencies could do with private information.
The possibility that the system might be deployed domestically to let
intelligence officials look into commercial transactions worried civil
"This could be the Perfect Storm for civil liberties in America," said
Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in
Washington. "The vehicle is the Homeland Security Act, the technology is
DARPA and the agency is the FBI. The outcome is a system of national
surveillance of the American public."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been briefed on the project by
Poindexter, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
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