- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

Key lawmakers have agreed to block funding for the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project until Congress can review the technology's effect on privacy and civil liberties.
The provision was secured yesterday in a massive spending bill hammered out by House and Senate negotiators and cannot be amended when the bill comes up for final votes.
The Total Information Awareness system, or TIA, headed by retired Vice Adm. John Poindexter, is a data-mining program that would provide access to public and private records, such as travel and bank documents and cell phone usage particulars, to identify terrorists.
Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and sponsor of the amendment blocking the program, said it is the most far-reaching government surveillance plan in American history.
"TIA crosses the line with respect to the balance people want to see struck. In a sense, this is a very powerful message that with a reach like this one, Congress has drawn a line in the sand and said it will not go forward unchecked," Mr. Wyden said.
The administration has 90 days after the bill is enacted to submit a report to Congress on the internal workings of the program or lose funding for it. The program was slated to receive $10 million this year and $20 million next year.
The measure was modified to permit ongoing intelligence gathering on non-U.S. citizens only, and Congress must approve all research and technology used in it.
"None of this has changed the objective I had from the beginning, which was to prevent snooping against law-abiding Americans on American soil," Mr. Wyden said.
In an effort to head off criticism, the Pentagon said last week that it was creating internal and external advisory boards to monitor the program to ensure that there were no privacy concerns or violations.
A coalition of civil liberties groups on the political right and left, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Eagle Forum, have fought to close the TIA.
Katie Corrigan, ACLU legislative counsel, said the program would "place millions of innocent Americans under government scrutiny in an epidemic of privacy invasions."
Attaching the measure to the fast-moving spending bill forced Congress to face the issue and judge the program in a timely manner, said Lori Waters at the Eagle Forum.
"We are very pleased that Congress has taken a step to put the brakes on TIA until they further investigate this. I couldn't find one member willing to jump up and down and say let [the Department of Defense] do whatever they want," she said.
But Paul Rosenzweig and Michael Scardaville, both of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, say the technology would serve as an important tool in the war against terrorism and should not be "strangled" by Congress.
"The threat of another horrific attack is simply too grave to justify prematurely cutting off such a promising anti-terrorism tool as TIA," Mr. Rosenzweig, senior legal research fellow, and Mr. Scardaville, homeland security policy analyst, wrote in a Feb. 5 legal memorandum.
Rejecting the technology would be premature, and Congress, instead, should legislate safeguards against intrusions on civil liberty, they said.
"The TIA program is no panacea. There is no guarantee that it will prevent further terrorist attacks against America. But neither is it an Orwellian monster whose construction will irretrievably alter the landscape of American liberty and freedom," they wrote.

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