Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Total Information Awareness lives on...

The Total Information Awareness system is a truly scary program which existed for some time inside DARPA, the U.S.A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It's general attributes were to create an ubiquitous spying program that could track and data mine vast swaths of information and supposedly through intelligent data mining techniques detect terrorist threats before they become real threats. To do so requires pulling together a wide range of data such as phone calls, emails, credit cards, etc, and looking for patterns you define as dangerous.

e.g. If the intelligence people had known to look for 20 cash purchases of one way airline tickets to people with middle eastern names, then the 9/11 attacks could have been avoided. I heard that observation in October 2001 but since then we've learned the government knew about the 9/11 plans and failed to do anything with that knowledge.

It's obviously threatening us individual citizens with living under a big brother police state where the government knows everything we're doing all in the name of heading off supposed threats before they happen. In 2002 when the program became public there was a big uproar and the congress passed some resolution banning parts of the TIA project. But parts of the project have lived on, in secrecy, under different names.

There had been a string of disclosures over the years since. Unfortunately the revelation of this story has been spread out enough to keep most from connecting the dots. Since the Obama inauguration in Jan 20, 2009 a former NSA intelligence analyst, Russell Tice, has been in the news whistleblowing about the program.

TIA Lives On and Total Information Awareness Lives On Inside the National Security Agency and Massive privacy violation by U.S. government are articles from 2006 going over revelations of a massive NSA program to track phone calls and at the time they promised they were only tracking people with terrorist connections.

Department of Homeland Security Wants to Spy on Americans (May 2008) goes over a proposed expansion of information sharing between military intelligence services and state and local law enforcement agencies. There have historically been barriers blocking routine information sharing between military and police. I believe one reason for such a block is the risk of forming a police state. The military's job is to protect the country against enemies whereas the role of police agencies is to keep the peace. The two have different agendas and methods and mind-sets, and if you focus the military on the citizens there is a risk that the citizens become the enemy. The proposed expansion of information sharing is said, by this article, to be illegal and unconstitutional. It was proposed during the Bush Administration.

NSA Whistleblower: Wiretaps Were Combined with Credit Card Records of U.S. Citizens NSA whistleblower Russell Tice was on Keith Olbermann's Countdown (MSNBC) program with revelations that the National Security Agency spied on individual U.S. journalists, entire U.S. news agencies as well as "tens of thousands" of other Americans. This revelation claimed the illegal wiretap program was greatly expanded from the claims made when it was first revealed back in 2005-6. Back then it was claimed they only wiretapped international calls and only when there were connections with terrorists. Tice is claiming there was no such limit, that they wiretapped a much broader set of people including a wide ranging set of journalists.

Countdown: Whistleblower exposes spying on Americans

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Ars technica: NSA whistleblower says journos were targeted Did the credit card companies provide transaction records of Americans? Whistleblower Levels Shocking Allegations at Bush's Spying Programs

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