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Total Information Awareness, Disguised And Alive 439

Posted by timothy
from the state-of-the-state dept.
unassimilatible writes "According to the AP, aspects of the controversial Total Information Awareness DARPA program, officially shut down by the U.S. Congress in September 2003 after a public outcry, seem to have survived. The article reports, 'Some projects from retired Adm. John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness effort were transferred to U.S. intelligence offices, congressional, federal and research officials told The Associated Press. In addition, Congress left undisturbed a separate but similar $64 million research program run by a little-known office called the Advanced Research and Development Activity, or ARDA, that has used some of the same researchers as Poindexter's program.'"
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Total Information Awareness, Disguised And Alive

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  • Common practice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:49PM (#8358831)
    in government, shoot for the moon and keep what you can if someone gets a nose on it. This happens all the time and is one of the reasons the federal budget is so large, departments ask for more than they really need and keep what they get.
    • Wack a mole... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:45PM (#8359163)
      When you have a crimial organization the size of the US Government, they will do as they please.

      If it fails here, they'll wack it. Sure.

      It will pop up there, and if uproar continues, they'll wack it there.

      It will pop up over there, under security this time, and if it leaks and there's more uproar, they'll wack it again. With "feeling".

      But, once told "no", only criminals will find another way. And the Feds have so very many options.

      They'll move it into "private research" inside Lockheed.

      Or, they'll bust it up into dozens of subject matter and time compartmentalized graduate projects in their Universities.

      Or, or, or...

      Seems real terrorists just won't allow themselves to be stopped.

  • Similar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by noelo (661375) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:49PM (#8358833)
    Isn't this somewhat similar to what the East German secret police did to their citizens during the cold war...
    • Get real (Score:5, Interesting)

      by binkless (131541) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:16PM (#8358997)

      It is in fact not at all like what the East German secret police (Stasi) did during the cold war. There was no legislative shell game to play because the legislature was a sham. The scope of individual liberty was so small that there was no comparable initiative from Stasi. There was no need to sift through large amounts of data about citizens to find out what they needed to know. Activities were all duly registered, and all records were available to them. Elaborate systems of informants kept tabs on any person of interest.


      It's hard to believe that anyone old enough to remember the cold war would say something so ridiculous. American domestic intelligence activities take place in a society where individuals enjoy broad latitude of action outside of state control. Without that context, total information awareness or whatever it has become would not even be a dream in a spies mind.

      • Re:Get real (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MoebiusStreet (709659) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:39PM (#8359453)
        American domestic intelligence activities take place in a society where individuals enjoy broad latitude of action outside of state control.

        I disagree. I challenge you to name one area of our lives that is entirely outside of government control. I can't think of any.

    • by whittrash (693570) on Monday February 23, 2004 @12:38PM (#8363510) Journal
      I don't object to the researchers being kept on. From what I have seen, the Information Awareness office that was shut down did some good work. We need 'information awareness', we need ways to automate looking through all the crap out there to find out what is useful and what isn't. The problem seems to be that some of these people seem willing to do anything to get that information, and I don't mean the researchers, I mean the spooks and the right wingers.

      The irony is that this tool would be much more useful and effective if they knew which way to point it. Rather than blanketing every bit of data everywhere, why not send in spies, get a vague idea who may be involved and then focus on that group rather than wasting resources everywhere. Go from 6 billion targets to 1 million or so and your odds go way up. It may be old fashioned, but that method got us through the Cold War and I don't understand why it can't work for the 'War on Terror'(which is a misnomer but I won't get into that). We need decent human intelligence. Without decent human intelligence all of these fancy computers will be next to useless, which is our current predicament. Information is useless without knowledge.

      And as for the people who are getting all freaked out by the government, especially on this geeky forum, it is the powermongers/wannabe dictators that should be afraid of us. Whenever I imagine a worst case scenario, where fascists take over, I imagine what I would do to fight back. Theoretically, I know how to shut the whole system down: communications, telephone, internet, power, transportation et cetera. Knowledge is power. But I believe that most of the people who run the national security apparatus are patriots who believe in liberty. I find it difficult to believe they would stoop to dictatorship. But if they do go too far, I'm not afraid of them, and they had better fear me. If anyone truly believs our liberty is being undermined, it is their duty to stand up and fight...anyone???
  • Damn (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:49PM (#8358834)
    and here I just packed my tinfoil hat, again!
  • From the ARDA Page (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:50PM (#8358839) Journal
    ARDA's mission is to sponsor high-risk high-payoff research designed to leverage leading edge technology in the solution of some of the most critical poblems facing the intelligence community (IC).

    High Risk as in 'Public Backlash'?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:25PM (#8359384)
      People are very confused on what and who DARPA is. I have worked on a few DARPA projects and this is how it normally goes.

      DARPA is only concerned with research. Not production or use.

      On the couple of DARPA programs I worked on it goes like this.

      1.) DARPA gets a crazy idea (like "I wonder if we can make an anti-gravity device".)

      2.) DARPA puts together about 6 to 10 teams of researchers (from industry and academia) and gives them some money to study the problem.

      3.) 6 months or so later the teams present their ideas to DARPA. DARPA then decides if it wants to stop the research or continue.

      4.) If DARPA continues. It will pick the best 2 or 3 approaches and give those teams more money for more details on their approach.

      5.) 6 months or so later the teams present their approaches to DARPA. If DARPA really likes an idea, it might have one of the teams build a small prototype.

      If the prototype works out DARPA will ask congress to take the research to production (not under DARPA but under DOD).

      Very, very rarely does a DARPA project make it to production.
    • by Brian Stretch (5304) * on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:29PM (#8359399)
      High Risk as in 'Public Backlash'?

      High Risk as in it's not likely they'll be able to make it work, but it'll be Really Cool (in their opinion) if they can.
  • Why ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vanieter (613996) <lpsavoie@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:51PM (#8358847)

    am I not even remotely surprised by this announcement ?

    Could anyone actually trust a government that passed the PATRIOT Act to actually can TIA ?

    • Re:Why ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:07PM (#8358952) Homepage Journal

      You should not be surprised - this is behavior that should be expected from any government no matter what benevolent face it puts on.

      The only things that keep power hungry government officials in check is fear of retribution from the populace. When the country was small and the military little more than a couple boy scouts with prettier boots (a situation that persisted well into the 20th century to some degree), there was the potential for armed revolts. Even pockets could cause huge problems.

      When the official forces were bulked up as a result of the world wars, there was still the ever hanging axe of the ballot box to keep politicians under control. When the media gained the power of radio and TV, any little foible could be broadcast within hours to a population that might actually care.

      Now, armed revolt isn't a threat, the media is broadcasting sensationalist bullshit for ratings meaning people don't take it that seriously, and the typical voter turnout is so horribly anemic that I have a hard time believing people even realize that they have a vote sometimes.

      Politicians are free to pursue whatever agenda they want now. Nobody is going to stop them. With a few exceptions like TIA, nobody speaks up against ridiculous, authoritarian programs coming out of D.C. anymore. When they do, you just see this - they get broken up and hidden in various budgets and departments in such a way that they look like harmless little pocket programs, but the same folks are still pulling the strings at the top.

      I've got to wonder sometimes how much farther this can go. The technology will just keep evolving in favor of loss of privacy and big brother-esque data collection and monitoring. When will people step up to draw the line and, depending on how long it takes, what will it take to actually keep the government from crossing it?

      • Re:Why ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by demachina (71715) on Monday February 23, 2004 @12:29AM (#8359988)
        "When will people step up to draw the line and, depending on how long it takes, what will it take to actually keep the government from crossing it?"

        We alread have some recent historical precedent you can draw from. What it took last time was:

        - A lengthy, ugly, pointless, war in Vietnam that killed and maimed large numbers of American soldiers and millions of Vietnamese. Vietnam for the U.S. and Afghanistan for the U.S.S.R. created large numbers of returning veterans who were disillusioned with their government after being subjected to the senseless horrors they were producing in the name of their geopolitical and economic manuevering.
        - A CIA that had essentially run amuck and was using covert operations, coups, assasinations and rigged elections to install despotic regimes around the world
        - An FBI engaged in a massive domestic spying and social engineering campaign
        - A President, Richard Nixon, who was caught using dirty tricks to destroy political oponents and insure his reelection.
        - Economic upheaval thanks in part to the massive expenditures in Vietnam

        America did manage to come back from the brink then for a time thanks to:
        - The antiwar movement. We forget this now but a lot of people were politically very active in the late sixties and early seventies.
        - Congressional investigations by the Church Commission which reined in the CIA and FBI for a time.
        - Investigate journalists, Woodward and Berstein, who refused to accept the mush being spoon fed them by the government and actually did what journalists are supposed to do which was find the truth.

        Today many of the same elements are coalescing though it took time for them to develop in the 60's and it wont happen overnight this time either:

        - the war in Iraq has the same potential as Vietnam to incite an anti war movement unless the U.S. is successful in disengaging its occupation army and fostering a stable government soon. Both are unlikely. If the U.S. were to disengage its army Iraq would likely devolve in to a civil war. Any real attempt to actually turn sovereignty over to the the Iraqs, with a democratic vote, would lead almost immediately to a Shia dominated Islamic republic which the U.S. won't tolerate. As a result the U.S. has to manipulate the politics in Iraq and maintain an occupation army, indefinitely, or cut and run and let it collapse like South Vietnam eventually did. If things continue as they are the root of an antiwar movement will form each time a new wave of 100,000 soldiers return from Iraq with the permenent scars of the horrors they are subjected to there. Occupations with a creditable insurgent resistance are always very ugly for everyone involved. This disillusionment would be an instantaneous process though. It will take years as it did in Vietnam. There are some forces that work against another Vietnam too. The Army learned a lot of lessons about what caused the moral collapse of the Army and public opinion in Vietnam and they have remedied some but not all. The three obvious ones are:
        - drug testing to prevent drug abuse
        - maintaining unit cohesion
        - suppressing media coverage of the ugly side of the war, in particular wounded soldiers screaming in pain and the unloading of the coffins in Delaware(the later insituted by non other than Dick Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense). The media today obsesses endless over the sensational murder/kidnapping of the day, but the nearly daily causalties in Iraq pass by with little more than "2 soldiers were killed today by an IED".

        - As for reining in the intelligence establishment with a new Church commission, there is one force working towards that and one against. The force working for it is growing public awareness of the blatant and obvious deception used to justify Iraq which should be grounds to once again rein in the CIA and to launch impeachment proceeding against the President. The force working against it is the Republicans control the government. As long as they do the deceipt will be
    • by Trejkaz (615352) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:47PM (#8359170) Homepage
      Could anyone actually trust the US government at all.
  • by Bobdoer (727516) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:52PM (#8358848) Homepage Journal
    We tell them no, then they break it in to a bunch of pieces and do it anyway.
    Why do we keep electing these people who keep misrepresenting us to represent us?
    • by kcbrown (7426) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:05PM (#8358940)
      We tell them no, then they break it in to a bunch of pieces and do it anyway. Why do we keep electing these people who keep misrepresenting us to represent us?

      Because you can only elect from those people on the list that is essentially chosen for you. And you don't get much of a say in who goes on that list.

      Those with Power (those who own and/or control this country's largest corporations) choose who get on that list and "sell" it to you via their mass media outlets.

      And the end result is that the only people you can realistically choose from are people who will not represent you, but who will represent Those with Power. It's why the "democracy" part of the "democratic republic" title for the U.S. is a lie.

      • by whovian (107062) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:29PM (#8359067)
        Very Insightful, +2.

        Now how do Those with Power "sell" to the public? By voicing the standard fare benefit programs that lead to better healthcare, better education, defense, lowered taxes, creation of new jobs, consumer protections, etc.

        After your post, I can't help but view these things as being dangling fishing lures baited with carrots.

      • by bluGill (862) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:41PM (#8359470)

        And you don't get much of a say in who goes on that list.

        Sure you can choose. In MN your chance in March 2nd, also called super tuesday where people in 10 different states all at once get a chance go choose who goes on the ballot.

        Of course you have to belong to a political party in order to have a choice, but if you don't want to belong to a party why would the party want you to have a say in who they put on the ballot. Get your own party, or just go out and get on the ballot yourself. (If you can't get enough signatures to get on the ballot in an afternoon in a local city you aren't trying)

        The greatest tradgity is that people have been convinced that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote. Don't fall for it.

        • The greatest tradgity is that people have been convinced that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote. Don't fall for it.

          Did you notice what happened in the 2000 election? In New Hampshire and Florida, about 3% of the votes went to Ralph Nader. Polls showed that the majority of those votes, had Nader not been there, would have gone to Gore.

          If a majority of those who voted for Nader in 2000 in either of those states had voted for Gore instead, he would have had a very clear majority and become our pr

      • by LearnToSpell (694184) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:51PM (#8359545) Homepage
        Because you can only elect from those people on the list that is essentially chosen for you. And you don't get much of a say in who goes on that list.

        You know what I find odd though, is that when there is a choice (like, say, the Green Party), people complain about it and claim they're taking votes from an electable party. It's sad that America is completely dominated by two parties, both very similar (race to the middle, anyone?), and any apparent deviation from that is met with great hostility ("Nader cost us the election!"). It would be nice to be able to vote for something, instead of a reflex vote against what you don't want. I see people as voting for Nader because they believe in his policies, rather than because they don't want Bush to get elected.

        But who knows? The voter turnout for 18- to 24-year-olds in the 2000 election was 9 percent. Nobody cares anyway.
  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:52PM (#8358854) Journal
    Take a look at the bottom of any of the ARDA [ic-arda.org] pages. See the little webmaster mail link? See the domain it goes to? ardaweb@nsa.gov [mailto]. I think that since the NSA has gotten a hold of it, there's not much you can do about it . . unless you want to disappear.
    • by Erwos (553607) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:14PM (#8358985)
      Yes, because we know an organization composed of crypto-geeks and engineers is completely equipped to make you disappear.

      NSA's not in the business of making people disappear. The program is public. Do you think they make every concerned citizen disappear? Please. Don't take movies as documentaries.

      In fact, NSA tends to be one of the more non-threatening agencies when it comes to dealing with protestors. Remember the infamous tea party, when they just met the protestors at the fence, gave them some tea, and asked them about any specific issues they had? They're not quite that loose anymore, but I'd really be more concerned with Homeland Security than NSA.

      -Erwos
  • No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shamir_k (222154) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:53PM (#8358855) Homepage
    "The whole congressional action looks like a shell game," said Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks work by U.S. intelligence agencies. "There may be enough of a difference for them to claim TIA was terminated while for all practical purposes the identical work is continuing."

    So most of the projects continue, but under a different name. And this time I am sure they will be much better hidden from the public eye. 1984 anybody?
    • by Aardpig (622459) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:02PM (#8358916)

      So most of the projects continue, but under a different name.

      Except for the Adm. John Poindexter project. From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      Poindexter was convicted on multiple felony counts on April 7, 1990 for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, defrauding the government, and the alteration and destruction of evidence pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair.

      However, in spite of being a convicted criminal, he hasn't changed his name. Duh -- what a fucking amateur!

  • Government (Score:3, Funny)

    by rholliday (754515) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:54PM (#8358860) Homepage Journal
    That's the government for you. Did you expect anything less?

    On a lighter note, I find it endlessly humerous that this psuedo-top secret department, causing all this controversy, that "sponsors high risk, high payoff research designed to produce new technology to address some of the most important and challenging IT problems faced by the intelligence community" has an Upcoming ARDA Calendar of Events!! [ic-arda.org] that it so gleefully links to on its target="_blank">home page [ic-arda.org]. :)
  • lessons learnt (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maliabu (665176) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:54PM (#8358867)
    will this (public outcry) also pushes more privacy-invading systems being developed and used in the dark?

    now that they knew public doesn't like the idea of such thing, why bother asking in the future? just go ahead and do it.
  • Not smart... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jim Starx (752545) <JStarx AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:55PM (#8358872)
    It said, for the time being, products of this research could only be used overseas or against non-U.S. citizens in this country, not against Americans on U.S. soil.

    I don't think treating americans diffrently based on where they are in the world is a good precident to set....

  • Civil War (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MacFury (659201) <me@johnkramli[ ]com ['ch.' in gap]> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:58PM (#8358889) Homepage
    I seriously wonder how long before we have another civil war. There is already civil unrest. We have it too good right now to take up arms...but I wonder if it will happen within my lifetime.

    Mass protests have done nothing to stop the war in Iraq...what would it take?

    • by pb (1020) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:16PM (#8358992)
      If you believe your friendly neighborhood time traveler [johntitor.com]...
    • Re:Civil War (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NanoGator (522640)
      "I seriously wonder how long before we have another civil war. There is already civil unrest. We have it too good right now to take up arms...but I wonder if it will happen within my lifetime. "

      The USA is a wonderful place to live. It would take a catastrophic set of events along with nobody trying to fix them in order to cause people to fight the government. Frankly, with 300 million people in this country, the chances of that are VERY low, even if we were to look towards 2050.

      For a civil war to happe
  • I think not (Score:5, Funny)

    by mikeophile (647318) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:59PM (#8358891)
    ARDA said its software would have to deal with "typically a petabyte or more" of data. It noted that some intelligence data sources "grow at the rate of four petabytes per month."

    So, the bastards think they can keep track of my porn collection, do they?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:59PM (#8358895)
    i am not suprised at all by this article.

    i'm definately not voting for bush (not like i did) because the terror color code thing has my little cousin scared of clifford the big red dog because he thinks he's a severe terror threat.
  • In Government... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TykeClone (668449) <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:00PM (#8358900) Homepage Journal
    No bad idea ever goes away.
  • Big government (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrScary (39957) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:02PM (#8358924)
    It just amazes me that the repulicans are all about government staying out of our lives but they produce so much legislation the interferes with our lives. I think that it is time for king George the second to reread the bill of rights or maybe its time for us to fight the revolutionary war again.
    • Re:Big government (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mellon101 (730405) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:19PM (#8359010)
      Both sides read the founding documents the way they want. Dem's are all about freedom of speech until it comes to something like campaign finance reform, which is a blatant violation of freedom of speech. They crap on our right to bear arms. Neutering it every chance they get. The republicans are giving the finger to our rights to privacy with all this patriot act and other such bullshit. Denying US citizens the right to legal representation and a fair trial by classifying them as POW's (or whatever they are calling them this week). There are so many more examples on both sides. The government is seriously getting out of hand. It has grown into something it was never intended to be. Things went wrong when power was taken away from the states and sent to D.C.
    • Re:Big government (Score:4, Informative)

      by qtp (461286) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @11:42PM (#8359813) Journal
      The Republicans have never been about keeping government out of your life. Whether the subject is obscenity, abortion, "family values", or smoking pot, the Republicans have been there to offer legislation to regulate the minutia of your behavior. They do claim to be all about reducing government, and they do talk about reducing taxes, but it has been the Republicans that have obscenely increased government spending since Nixon, and it has been the Republicans who have proposed new powers for federal, state, and local law enforcement that infringe upon our first and fourth amendment rights, and it has been the Republicans who have bypassed US laws (proposed by Republicans) to support foreign terrorists and dictators (Including Osama Bin-Laden, Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinoche, Francios and Jean-Claude Duvalier, Manuel Noriega, Anastasio Samoza, Alfredo Cristiani, Mobuto Sese Seko, Samuel Doe, P.W. Botha, etc, etc, etc,) and murdered democratically elected leaders of other countries (Patrice Lumumba) incited coups against Democratic governments (Chile in 1973, Congo in 1964, Liberia in 1980, and a failed coup attempt in Venezuela this past April).

      Many Americans choose to be ignorant this historical record because of the Republicans talk of lowering taxes, in spite of the obvious connection between increased government spending and a need for increased revenues.

      Many Americans are aware of the historical record, are aware of the continuing illegal activities of our intelligence agencies (both abroad and at home), yet they choose to act as if blind to these things, will argue in favor of these actions, and will contrive to make life difficult of anyone who dare speak of them (if you do not produce documentation you are "crazy", if you do produce documentation then you are "dangerous").

      TIA and ARDA are little more than our intelligence agencies and the current Republican administration conspiring to behave a bit more like the dictators they have traditionally backed. The intelligence agencies and the industries that are supported by them would like to see a return to the more lucrative days of the Cold War. They feel they are under threat as more and more people are scrutinizing their history using collections of documents released by the Freedom of Information Act, like those at the National Security Archive [nsarchive.org], EPIC.org [epic.org], the Federation of American Scientists [fas.org], the EFF [eff.org], and probably more that I am unaware of.

      Read this stuff, it is an amazing way to gain insight into the hidden workings of our government. Read about "the Church Commission [google.com] to learn how the CIA breaks the law, hires the mob, and manipulates the media while harassing and murdering US citizens that they beleive hold "un-American beleifs". Read about the Iran-Contra [gwu.edu] affair to learn how little respect for the law our current Administration's Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Poindexter (among others) really have, and read about the cocaine importing [gwu.edu] that they participated in [webcom.com] to fund their pet terrorists.

      The current mood seems to support giving our Federal Law Enforcement and Intelligence agencies increased freedoms to invade our privacy while reducing oversight of their actions in hopes that this will increase national security and make our lives a little safer. The problem is that when you look at the record of their history, it appears that the opposite is much more likely to result, and that allowing the FBI and CIA increased freedom and power, might just end the
  • by cluge (114877) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:04PM (#8358930) Homepage
    Many government agencies have been struggling to pay catch up when it comes to the "Information Revolution". Now a decade after the revolution began some are starting to realize the potential. It's been pretty embarassing to sit at your desk in the CIA and not be able to do a Google Search [google.com]. I believe that the "total information awareness" program is simply a way to try and rectify this.

    The tools are only going to get better, and the more laws and policies that allow the "leakage" of personal information will only make "privacy" a state of mind as opposed to something you actually have. If congress was so concerned about privacy perhaps they would rethink the Patriot Act, or other invasive police policies that have been en vogue for the last decade.
  • I like this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pave Low (566880) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:05PM (#8358943) Journal
    I know this is probably an unpopular opinion on slashdot, but I hope the government does go ahead with this plan.

    The government isn't really spying on you, per se. They are taking all the public information out there, and data mining it to potentially flag and catch criminals and terrorists.

    The crowd here turn into luddites as soon as technology is used by the government, but I think this is a great use for it. The 9/11 hijackers were in plain view, but because of the different agencies and bureaucracies, they fell through. This could be a tool to find the next 9/11 and I am all for it.

    • Re:I like this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cgranade (702534) <cgranadeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:30PM (#8359071) Homepage Journal

      'Ya know, that's wonderful, but let's be rational about this. 3,000 deaths... a staggering number, right? However, it is hardly the most tragic thing ever to happen: "In 2002, an estimated 17,419 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes--an average of one every 30 minutes. These deaths constitute 41 percent of the 42,815 total traffic fatalities. (NHTSA, 2003)" [from MADD [madd.org].] Don't get me wrong... 9/11 was no doubt a significant event. I just mean to say that the threat posed by it pales in comparison to so many of the threats that surround us every day and which go largely unnoticed.

      Even if we assume that 9/11 represented such a grave threat as to cause us to consider the radical restructuring of the very nature of our rights, then we must ask if that is a productive course of action. Remember when TIME magazine ran the cover article [time.com] claiming that not enough was done to prevent 9/11, even with the Phoenix memo and other warnings? So, please, remind me again how TIA will prevent a "second 9/11?"

      While you may be ready to give up your rights in response to a vauge threat (color scale of doom, anyone?) and to passively take hook, line and sinker, there remain those of us who still value the lives lost back in the late 1700s... the lives which won us this freedom in the first place.

    • by SHEENmaster (581283) <(travis) (at) (utk.edu)> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:39PM (#8359121) Homepage Journal
      Just as it's illegal for the feds to go through every home in america looking for a criminal, it should be (is?) illegal for them to search through private information about me without reasonable cause to suspect me.

      Furthermore, the government's paranoia about terrorists will make it illegal to look like a terrorist to this list. If you refuse to give your SS#, you look bad to the list. If you refuse to show ID, you look bad to the list. It doesn't matter that your SS# is supposed to be privately used only for purposes of social security, and it doesn't matter that you can't be forced to show ID unless you are suspected of a crime. What looks bad to the list will become a crime.

      I hate this idea because it will imiplicate and punish innocent people for matching the trends of guilty ones. Furthermore, the people said "NO!" to this once, and it's disgusting that our government forces its will over that of the people.
      • by timeOday (582209)
        Just as it's illegal for the feds to go through every home in america looking for a criminal, it should be (is?) illegal for them to search through private information about me without reasonable cause to suspect me.
        But what is "private information?" In the US hardly any information is legally private; information about you is owned by whoever bothers to make note of it. Credit agencies can even sell *false* information about you with no liability for the damage they cause!
    • Re:I like this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by blincoln (592401) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:55PM (#8359226) Homepage Journal
      This could be a tool to find the next 9/11 and I am all for it.

      If there were going to be another terrorist attack, don't you think *something* would already have happened, even if it was just a Hammas-style bus bombing?

      When even the normally insane Pat Buchanan writes a lengthy, thoughtful, and accurate essay on why the "war on terror" is a sham - and it gets the cover of a conservative magazine [amconmag.com], that should set off alarm bells in everyones' heads.

      Al Qaeda already got what they wanted - they blew up some Americans, sent the US on its way to becoming a totalitarian state, isolated it from its allies (particularly in the Middle East), *and* as a bonus Iraq will soon be converted into a hardline Islamic nation. They didn't even lose their leader in the process.

      What could they possibly gain by sticking their necks out again?
    • Re:I like this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:12PM (#8359319)
      The government isn't really spying on you, per se.

      Of course not.

      They are taking all the public information out there, and data mining it to potentially flag and catch criminals and terrorists.

      And it won't flag and catch me by mistake. They'd never make an error like that. This technology only affects bad guys.

      This actually should be wonderful news for me. I made $92 off of Poindexter's stupid Total Information Awareness program last year by selling this T-shirt [zazzle.com] protesting it: "I gave up my essential liberties to obtain a little temporary security, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!" [Disclaimer: I might make money off you if you click that link and buy one, but I have a job, honestly don't need your money, would forward it to no worthy cause, and am just showing off my shirt design and bragging about the fact that I made $92 off of Total Information Awareness.]

      The crowd here turn into luddites as soon as technology is used by the government, but I think this is a great use for it. The 9/11 hijackers were in plain view, but because of the different agencies and bureaucracies, they fell through. This could be a tool to find the next 9/11 and I am all for it.

      Well, let's not get too presumptive about 9/11. It hasn't been demonstrated at all that the only way to prevent this attack would have been to implement a massively connected database with an extensive electronic dossier on each one of us. In fact, it hasn't been demonstrated at all that the attack could not have been prevented simply by people doing their jobs like they were supposed to.

      Once the 9/11 commission finishes its report, maybe we will see what improvements can be made short of creating an unAmerican police state.

  • btw imho lol (Score:5, Informative)

    by segment (695309) <{gro.xirtilop} {ta} {lis}> on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:07PM (#8358949) Homepage Journal

    See what acronyms can do to you. MWEAC [google.com], OSIS [army.mil], MISSI [google.com], hell some of their own [kuro5hin.org] don't even know what exists or even what they do. Again, I thank John Asscroft and his Patriot Act [eff.org], all under the gimmick of the pork barrel Department of Homeland Insignificance. Now, obviously this sound trollish but it is not, most people here click by things without looking into things. Sort of like the way stories are read here, a quick glimpse, and that's that.

    For those interested in what is going on in government behind the scenes, don't always think people who post the kinds of things I post are all conspiratorial stories aimed at bringing down government through chaos. Hell look at sites like FAS [fas.org], Cryptome [cryptome.org], Arms Control [armscontrol.org], and the multitude of others. Many people point things out but too many are concerned with menial things such as Janet's boobs, Sex and the Shitty, etc., to notice the rug being pulled from under them. Hell most Americans think CNN and Fox are the holy grail of news. Get out there and read, know what's happening in your country. Check out BBC, Observer, Greg Palast, AntiWar [antiwar.com], Chomsky. These people aren't being controlled via advertisers, not political pressure. I write sometimes too kooky assed documents [politrix.org], that some might say aren't worth a pot to piss in [politrix.org]. Maybe so, but there is a reason for me rambling on like a madman sometimes. I care about my privacy and liberty. I don't want my friends or family growing up in something out of "Escape from Alcatraz"

  • My recent experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pegr (46683) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:12PM (#8358973) Homepage Journal
    I just recently applied for a mortgage loan. The loan guy was happy to share my credit report with me. I looked it over, and found a section I couldn't make sense of. I asked the loan guy what that section meant. He said "That's whether or not you're a terrorist. Congrats, you're not." So as far as the credit reporting agencies go, yes, they track that stuff. Scarier still, that little tidbit, accurate or not, is available to every person capable of pulling a credit rating...

    I asked the loan guy what he would do if the report said I was a terrorist... He said "I'd excuse myself to the restroom, get in my car, drive at least five miles away, then call my boss!" ;)
  • by polv0 (596583) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:15PM (#8358991)
    As a data-mining professional I find myself using the term data-mining less frequently in my interactions with clients and colleagues. That is because data-mining is going the way of artificial intelligence: over hyped and under delivered. The ARDA Novel Intelligence from Massive Data [ic-arda.org] web-site summarizes the principle failures of data-mining.
    "The techniques fail to acquire or to use the prior knowledge - the "thread of logic" - that analysts bring to their tasks. As a result, discoveries made by machines prove to be trivial, well-known, irrelevant, implausible, or logically inexplicable"
    95% of what is "discovered" in data-mining falls into one of the above categories. The value is provided by leveraging the data to quantify the "well-known" effects, and is obtained by using modern applied statistics to tackle specific problems such as:

    Use these 100,000 measurements of 10 known varibles and outcomes to build a model to predict unkown outcomes for new variables.

    DARPA and ARDA's goal of predicting terrorist behavior, or
    "spotting the telltale signs of strategic surprise in massive data sources"
    will fail due to a paucity of observed terrorist behavior, an inability to precisely define the objective and an enormous amount of poorly collected, noisy and irrelevant data.
    • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:42PM (#8359144) Journal
      I cannot agree that US government data mining is necessarily ineffective.

      US gov TLAs with access to certain types of data alone have phenomenally clean and good data to use for data mining. For starters:

      * Phone calls. Forget *contents* of phone calls -- a cop doesn't even need a warrant to get a list of phone calls. Plug all phone calls into a nice big database, and you have an excellent association network -- I can build up a list of all the people you know.

      Now, suppose I want to detect flow of causuality. I look for some degree of correlation between a phone call from entity A to entity B and entity B to entity C. If a phone call of the second type follows a phone call of the first type within a day or two more than, say, 25% of the time, there's an interesting link to explore. Maybe entity B is passing on instructions to entity C. I'm not sure what the status of past location data is -- whether a warrant is required for telcos to turn over the data they've logged on your movements. Given a couple of years of accurate movement data, it's probably really interesting when a phone call from entity A to entity B is frequently followed by a physical visit from entity B to entity C.

      * Purchasing-related data. Movements can be tracked via ATM withdrawals, credit-card use, phone card use, store purchasing card use. You ever let a friend use your store grocery card? That's a great source of determining who knows who -- a store card associated with two credit cards.

      When you get a driver's license, most states fingerprint you (or at least thumbprint). I didn't even know that I *could* opt out of the thumbprint until afterwards.

      I agree that mining is probably less useful to find terrorists (frankly, unless a terrorist is just incredibly stupid, he's going to avoid the above), but it *is* useful to track all kinds of other people.

      Any person with a cell phone should have no expectation of privacy. They're carrying around a portable tracking device with a microphone that can be turned on remotely. End of story.
      • by polv0 (596583) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:13PM (#8359326)
        The scenarios you list may aid in tracking down a known terrorist, but without prior knowledge that can be effectively inserted into the data mining algorithm neither scenario will discover novel information about unkown terrorist rings.

        Consider that there are approximately 300 million people in the united states. At 10 phone calls a day for 365 days you get 1 trillion phone calls per year. Suppose I have 100 known terrorists telephone activity for 6 months, and I want to find similar patterns in the remainder of my data to identify other terrorist rings. That means I have 100*10*365/2 = 182,500 training examples. I.e., 200k / 1,000,000,000k ~= two millionths of a percent of my data for training a predictive model is labeled as positive for terrorist activity. Even with an amazingly accurate algorithm, this will lead to hundreds of thousands of false positives and a few true positives, for no net gain of actionable information. Certainly you can narrow these results by orders of magnitude through very intensive effort, but the margin will not be overcome.

        To track down known terrorists can't the data be requested on an as-needed basis through the courts?
  • Very telling quote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by extrarice (212683) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:18PM (#8359004) Homepage Journal
    If you only read a few sentences from this article, read these:

    [quote]
    Ted Senator, who managed that research for Poindexter, told government contractors that mining data to identify terrorists "is much harder than simply finding needles in a haystack."

    "Our task is akin to finding dangerous groups of needles hidden in stacks of needle pieces," he said. "We must track all the needle pieces all of the time."
    [/quote]

    This would be where the "Total" part of "Toal Information Awareness" comes in.
  • by K.B.Zod (642226) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:50PM (#8359196)
    I am ashamed that after scanning the discussion so far I may be the first to recognize "Arda" from Tolkien:

    "In the language of the Elder Days, 'Arda' signified the World and all that is in it." -- from The Encyclopedia of Arda [glyphweb.com]

    I guess it's a suitably ambitious acronym for the project.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:51PM (#8359208)
    For a program like TIA to work, first we have to tell the people that we have chosen not to implement it. No surprise here.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:00PM (#8359247)
    I thought government researchers were killed when their programs got cancelled.

    Turns out, they just go get similar jobs in a similar field. Wow.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:12PM (#8359318)

    Interesting who the research money was going to. Lenat's Cycorp is well-known in the AI community as a black hole into which vast sums of money are poured with no useful results.

    On the other hand, Craig Knoblock, whose name was horribly misspelled in the article, is a first class AI researcher. His current work looks like it would be useful outside the context of TIA.

    All in all, it looks like the usual story: well-known names in the AI community being supported by money from wherever in the convoluted entrails of the US Federal Govt money comes from. If TIA is defunded, they need new grants to keep working. Don't know that it all means much.

  • No shocker there (Score:5, Informative)

    by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:24PM (#8359379) Journal
    I think everyone on Slashdot called this one last July [slashdot.org].

    Basically, the funding bill that supposedly "killed" TIA only banned funding for the program called "Terrorism Information Awareness." It's a gaping legal loophole that seems to have been written in a piss-poor attempt at reassuring Joe and Jane CNN Viewer that the good government really had no intention to spy on them for subversive activities, no-siree.

    I'm not surprised the obvious result is taking place. I am surprised that someone in a newsroom somewhere thought to follow up on the fate of TIA-related research.

    Remember: It's not paranoia if they're really watching you.
  • by mrogers (85392) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:30PM (#8359409)
    The logo of the new project can be seen here [ucl.ac.uk].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:48PM (#8359525)
    I used to work for TIA, as part of a software contractor. If I named the contractor, it would mean little to you, but we were an integral and successful part of Poindexter's plans - I was supposed to meet the man myself and ended up meeting all his direct reports (he was busy at the last minute). We were part of a larger software effort invovling information databases. I made quite a good living.

    I ended up in the job, as is always the way, by drifting from one task to another inside the contractor until I ended up doing anti-terrorist work - a classic "slippery slope".

    I did the only honest thing I felt I could - I quit. Of course, I'm not going to claim I was any sort of hero. Because I didn't like why I was working, I didn't like my job, and as a software programmer, it wasn't too hard to find another job. But, I did quit a good job for essentially political reasons.

    I mention this for 2 reasons: 1) If people refused to do the work, refused to take the jobs, the program would never succeed (I know it's easy to say - I have no kids to feed - but still, it's true). Hell, people fled the country to avoid fighting in Vietnam. 2) It was common knowledge that there was little risk in having TIA go away - everything would stay the same (and has, at my old company). 3) What we were doing was not secret - never was. But nobody knew anyway, and the people running the show liked it that way. Security through obscurity.
  • Alternatives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AvantLegion (595806) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:54PM (#8359573) Journal
    Typical. Lots of whining, crying, and complaining, and little in the way of insightful alternatives.

    Or does the fact that the intelligence agencies aren't able to even analyze the massive flow of info they have not bother anyone?

    Certainly we don't need a repeat of past events. What's the point of saying, "no don't look, no don't look, no don't look, no don't look", and then when the attack comes, scream, "why weren't you looking???"

  • whoa (Score:4, Funny)

    by discogravy (455376) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @11:01PM (#8359613) Homepage
    the government was less than honest?

    ...well, fucking, DUH.

  • by TheUberBob (700030) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @11:38PM (#8359795)
    seriously. come on, the CIA/FED has been screwing around in foreign countries, funding coups, shipping weapons, and generally encouraging anti-american anti-capitalist backlash instead of funding diplomacy. and people here are posting in support of this stuff. wake up and smell the maple nut crunch.

    fear and terror makes money --it funds the military industrial complex and helps slow growth of other countries by allowing us to continue destabilizing them economically and politically. Cuba anyone? This is a control mechanism that will be used to reduce citizens rights and dissent in the US, not just to hunt terrorists. and it will perpetuate the OH NO the TERROR ALERT WENT UP! paranoia because all it will find is false positives anyway. it's about as useless as stoping cars at an airport to make sure they dont have explosives. hello, we'd hit a school, tyvm.

  • Dear Washington, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by teamhasnoi (554944) <(teamhasnoi) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Monday February 23, 2004 @12:25AM (#8359974) Homepage Journal
    Wow. Not that I thought for a moment that it wasn't going to happen - here you are again with your power-trip plans.

    I really don't appreciate this.

    Although September 11th was scary, and a wake-up call (to whom, I'll let you decide), you certainly have taken the ball and run with it.

    From control of the media, to your obvious relationships with big business, you're feeling pretty good right now, I'll bet. Hell, you barely try and hide controversial projects now; really who's going to stop you? Voter turnout is a joke, and even if people showed up, there's not really a guarrantee that the results haven't been tampered with.

    The 'war on terror' is just amazing. So much can be rationalized for 'safety's sake'. Who's un-american this week? Who's a potential threat? Who stands against freedom?

    I'm sure you will provide the answers to these questions from your bully pulpit, from newspapers and television that run whatever is put in front of them.

    Frankly, terrorists don't scare me. You do.

    That's right, my very own government. You've declared war. Not on terror, but on privacy, civil and human rights, and freedom.

    Washington? Are you listening? When did rampant wiretapping, invading library records and putting gag orders on librarians, installing keyloggers on our computers, and treating every citizen like a criminal become the definition of freedom?

    I'd sure like an answer, Washington, because it sounds like you have it in for me, as well as everyone else who lives here - in the most free nation on earth. For now.

    Sincerely,
    teamhasnoi

  • by Genda (560240) <(mariet) (at) (got.net)> on Monday February 23, 2004 @03:45AM (#8360663) Journal
    I wish people, especially people responsible for the spending of billions of our tax dollars would get their ideas from sources more credible than CSI or The Six Million Dollar Man...

    Talk to the leadership in the Intelligence Technology, and they'll tell you, finding bad guys is hard enough. Trying to sift though mountains of pepper hoping to find the one fly speck, is just insane. One "Intelligence Researcher" refered to the idea of watching every single American for signs of terrorist affiliation is like "Looking for a needle in a haystack of haystacks..." This will ultimately make it much harder to find the real bad guys, waste precious human and financial resources on fantasy tech that does not exist (and won't for some time to come), and in the end... innocent lives continue to hang in the balance.

    I have a close friend who during Pappa Bush's administration, worked at Lockheed. He worked on debunking "Brilliant Pebbles" the next incarnation of "Smart Rocks", intelligent projectiles in space designed to hunt down and elliminate the threat of ICBMs to America (all part of the Star Wars Initiative.) He explained that the hardware to make this possible wouldn't exist until some time after 2010, and that even when that hurdle was cleared, there was no way to control the pebbles or have them communicate, that couldn't be jammed by EMP or radiation. In short, it was a doomed idea, and no amount of sexy or comic book fantasizing by Pentagon hawks was going to make this dog hunt. It took years and millions of dollars to finally convince these guys.. this was a bad idea. God only knows what we'll have to do, to get the Dexterites to wise up in a sane timeframe.

    This is of course above and beyond the simple gutting of the entire philosophy of our particular form of government. That being;

    Government should be transparent, and citizens should have operational privacy.

    Somehow, our executive seems to believe the opposite, and it's all too clear that an opaque executive can simple be equated to one who is interested in paving his agenda all over the citizenry and the landscape, rule of law be damned.

    Genda
    -- Thems that trade a bit of liberty for a bit of security...
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:46AM (#8361905)
    How many fingers am I holding up?

    That's right. Two.

    One on each hand.


    -FL

"Morality is one thing. Ratings are everything." - A Network 23 executive on "Max Headroom"

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