- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The FBI's ties to a Pentagon-based computerized tracking system designed to identify terrorists prompted a senior Republican senator yesterday to question whether the Justice Department had "blurred the lines" between domestic law enforcement and military security efforts.
"We need to strike a balance between targeting terrorists with everything we've got and also protecting the rights and freedoms cherished by Americans," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
"Military dollars shouldn't be spent on domestic law enforcement," he said.
Mr. Grassley voiced his concerns in a letter yesterday to Attorney General John Ashcroft, joining four Democrats who questioned Mr. Ashcroft last week on whether "appropriate safeguards" had been taken against potential misuse of the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) computerized tracking system.
Outgoing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, and fellow Democrat committee members Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington, wanted to know what the Justice Department was doing to guarantee adequate program oversight.
Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, also called on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee to investigate the TIA system and challenged what he called the "troubling appointment" of retired Vice Adm. John Poindexter of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as head of the tracking program.
The TIA system is an information technology program designed to combat terrorism. It can monitor daily personal transactions by Americans and others, by tracking, among other things, the use of passports, drivers licenses, credit cards, airline tickets and rental cars.
The investigation into the September 11 attacks showed that the 19 hijackers involved made scores of credit-card, travel and passport transactions as they entered and left the country, and received money to finance their deadly acts. Those transactions would be traceable under the TIA system.
Mr. Grassley said the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General, in response to written questions, reported that TIA system personnel had contacted agencies at the Justice Department "on possible experimentation with TIA technology in the future."
Describing that contact as a "direct contradiction" of earlier Justice Department statements, Mr. Grassley said the matter will be the focus of an audit to begin next month.
He noted that Justice Department officials, in reports published in the past month, said the department had not received any information about the TIA project.
"I am very concerned that [the Justice Department] and the FBI may have been less than forthright to the press and the American people about their involvement with TIA," Mr. Grassley said in his letter.
The senator, a frequent FBI critic, said DARPA Director Anthony J. Tether confirmed that TIA personnel had contacted the FBI, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, the Justice Department and components of the Department of Homeland Security.
He said Mr. Tether reported that the FBI was working on a memo of understanding with DARPA for possible experimentation with TIA technology, and that part of the TIA project would focus on the development of privacy protections. These safeguards are not currently available.
Mr. Grassley said the inspector general's audit will assess whether proper protections are being included in the developmental contracts to stop abuses, will determine the adequacy of computer security safeguards, and will review whether human-access protections are in place to guard civil liberties.
He gave Mr. Ashcroft until Feb. 10 to respond with "a complete accounting, including timeline" of Justice Department and FBI actions regarding the TIA system, as well as a copy of the FBI memo of understanding.

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