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Homeland Security Tests Snoop Computer System 233

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the return-of-tia dept.
Parallax Blue writes "The Washington Times reports that Homeland Security has developed and is testing a new computer system called ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement) that collects and analyzes personal information on US citizens. Relevant data 'can include credit-card purchases, telephone or Internet details, medical records, travel and banking information.' The program apparently uses the same process as the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project, which was aborted in 2003 due to privacy concerns."
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Homeland Security Tests Snoop Computer System

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  • Aborted? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vivaoporto (1064484) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:12AM (#18287022)
    which was aborted in 2003 due to privacy concerns

    If by aborted you mean "renamed, swept under the rug and kept secret this time", yes, it has been "aborted".
    • Re:Aborted? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jackharrer (972403) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:19AM (#18287038)
      Did you think they will "abort" something they pumped several (possibly hundreds) millions dollars into?
      Obviously they just made an announcement to divert public attention from it. Nothing new I would say.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jimmydevice (699057)
        They spend hundreds of millions on mouse pads and screen cleaner.
        • by Kadin2048 (468275)
          And if you told them to surrender their mouse pads and screen cleaner, doubtless they'd hide those and drag them back out when you weren't looking, too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stradric (983743)
        "Did you think they will "abort" something they pumped several (possibly hundreds) millions dollars into?" Absolutely. They do it all the time with billion dollar defense projects. Millions and even billions get dumped into projects like the osprey and nothing ever comes of it.
    • by krbvroc1 (725200)

      which was aborted in 2003 due to privacy concerns
      Actually, it wasn't 'aborted'. Congress using their power of the purse, held hearings, said it was unlawful, and specifically defunded it. The fact that it has resurfaced just shows that this administration could care less about the law. [See yesterdays articles about the FBI abusing national security letters]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hoi Polloi (522990)
        They were just busy trying to find and burn all copies of the constitution before getting restarted.
    • Newspeak (Score:4, Interesting)

      You gotta love the Orwellian genius of our darling public servants. Think I'll pen a new law for Congress and the Senate to consider: the Love America And Freedom act. The text of the bill demands immediate impeachment and war crimes trials for the Bush administration. If you disagree with the bill, obviously you hate America and Freedom.

  • ADVISE (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bloke down the pub (861787) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:19AM (#18287046)
    Rules for naming projects:

    1) Choose a word you like. Or better, that the boss/sponsor likes.
    2) Reverse engineer an acronym to fit. Sort of.
    3) ...
    4) Profit!!!!!

    Don't tell me it ain't so.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I wish I could say that this was an exclusively American phenomenon, but it seems to be becoming more widespread as the years go by. Now, in some cases, acronymisation has given us some useful new words; RADAR, LASER, etc. But most of the time acronyms are rather irritating buzzwords thrown about to sell something.

      Very, very irritatingly, instead of referring to acronyms by saying the letters, people try to say "the word" that the acronym is trying to spell out. For acronyms that have been designed for this
      • Re:ADVISE (Score:5, Funny)

        by clickety6 (141178) on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:44AM (#18287582)

        Personally, I detest acronyms. If you dislike writing something out all the time, use a macro. If you need to say something, please don't use some ridiculous string of consonants as a word. It's insulting to your audience.

        I for one, welcome your non-acronym agenda and from 12:00 post meridian today I shall no longer use acronyms, Exempli Gratia I shall hereby only refer to Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation devices, Radio Detection And Ranging devices, Et Cetera.

        I think the above proves how much better it is to not have acronyms. Anybody with an Intelligence Quotient over 50 could see this, so Quod Erat Demonstrandum. Using my International Business Machines Corporation computer, I have created an HyperText Markup Language docuemnt linked to a My Structured Query Language database showing this which can found at the following Uniform Resource Locator:

        HypertextTransferProtocol:\\worldwideweb.letsallpl easestopusingacronyms.commercial\mydocument.hypert extmarkuplanguage

        • by Heian-794 (834234)
          I know this is a joke, but your post was surprisingly easy to read and understand with all the words being spelled out.

          Perhaps we could make an embedded auto-correct feature to browsers that lets you type in acronyms which are automatically converted to spelled-out words? Many people use variations of this already when they have to type in the same phrases over and over. Or a feature that lets you toggle between acronyms and full spelling, just like the Traditional/Simplified toggle that the Mac has for C
          • by Salsaman (141471)
            Actually that idea is not new. Somebody actually patented it in 1988, and Richard Stallman (RMS !) frequently refers to it as an example of the dangers of software patents.


            See here for more info. [pluto.it]

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I wish I could say that this was an exclusively American phenomenon, but it seems to be becoming more widespread as the years go by. Now, in some cases, acronymisation has given us some useful new words; RADAR, LASER, etc. But most of the time acronyms are rather irritating buzzwords thrown about to sell something.

        We don't even use the good ones we have! RADAR and LASER reminded me of my favorite casualty, LIDAR. We end up calling it "laser scanning" or, what is far worse, "LASER RADAR".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by RationalRoot (746945)
      In banking

      The Client: Realtime Automated Trading System

      The Server: Automated Revaluation System Enterprise Server

      aka RATS ARSES
    • While on contract with ABN AMRO several years back, I sat near a team of Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) weenies.

      I am not at all exaggerating when I report that the team of four/five spent approximately two full weeks of 7 hour days 'brainstorming' an acronym for the 'Business Process Re-Engineering' project they were working on.

      I never did find out what they came up with.
      • I did some quick research, what they came up with can be found here [bnet.com]: BPR.

        I'm sure they had a tough time decidig between BPR, BPRE, BPR-E, and BPRe. I'm also sure that they had an easy time billing the client for those hours.

        I'd bet plenty of PHBs pronounce it as "beeper", which I'd also bet leads to all kinds of confusion as the sales force long ago upgraded from beepers to cell phones to crackberries.

        That, and "Beeper" sounds like the name of a muppet.

        Oh well, I suppose I'll log off and go watch whate
    • by inviolet (797804)

      Rules for naming projects:

      1) Choose a word you like. Or better, that the boss/sponsor likes.
      2) Reverse engineer an acronym to fit. Sort of.
      3) ...
      4) Profit!!!!!

      Don't tell me it ain't so.

      Purposely Reusing Old but Funny Insights Tediously [PROFIT].

      Or how about: Periodically Reposting an Oldie, Forgetting It's Tiresome.

    • Local activist groups are the worst for this.

      "We need a snappy acronym"
      "How about 'CARE'? It would stand for Concerned...Area...ummmm...Reaching...ahhhh..."
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:25AM (#18287062)

    The program apparently uses the same process as the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness project, which was aborted in 2003 due to privacy concerns."

    But TIA was part of the military. This is for the defense of our homeland, so the trade-off in liberty must be worth it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TommydCat (791543)
      We should be glad that it will only be the crack-trained Stormtroopers Of Liberty breaking down the wrong door now instead of an tank and platoon of nervous teens with M16s?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cp.tar (871488)

      But TIA was part of the military. This is for the defense of our homeland, so the trade-off in liberty must be worth it.

      Ah, so this is the Semantic Enhancement part, right?

      Supposing the Insight part is taken caren of by the moderators (hint, hint) because of my Analysis and Slashdot's Dissemination, we're only lacking the Visualisation part.

      So do you think they've actually put up a fancy name for a bunch of Slashdotter-equivalents, who Visualize scantily clad girls during their short and scarce breaks?

  • Bad, bad, bad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YouTalkinToMe (559217) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:30AM (#18287088)

    Granted, data mining can dig a lot of interesting info out of big databases. But to me, there are two big problems with these type of programs:

    1. Guilt by association: When they are doing "linkage analysis" using your phone records etc, how many people will be swept up in the "terrorist" net because they visit the same library as a "terrorist", or got called by accident, or shop at the same Wallmart?

    2. Mandate drift: We all know that now it is "the terrorists", soon it will be "the terrorists, the child abusers, the drug dealers, the guys who hit little old ladies, ...". But with the sorts of data mining they are doing, they could just as easily pick out groups of probable (insert political affiliation here). How would you like the FBI showing up at your door because some data mining program thinks that you are probably going to protest a visit to your hometown by the president?

    • Don't worry under the new legislation everyone is a terrorist until proven otherwise.

      Did you ever forget to report that extra income you made mawing lawns in that summer, well you hid money from Uncle Sam and you probably used it to fun al-Qaeda which makes you a terrorist.

      Did you ever think bad thoughts about the president? Well are definetly a terrorist.

      Did you ever use encryption? Only pedophiles and terrorists use encryption so you are probably a terrorist.

      Taking all this into consideration, we (the D

    • > How would you like the FBI showing up at your door because some data mining program thinks that you are probably going to protest a visit to your hometown by the president?

      In my case it was the Secret Service.
    • by 955301 (209856)

      Yeah, think how much havoc you can wreak as a suspected terrorist by just opening up the local phone book, picking seven "tough guy" sounding names and incessently harrassing them? They'd never board a plane again
    • my big problem with this program in particular is that the Department of Homeland Security is notorious for not protecting its data (example #1 [eweek.com], example #2 [americasnetwork.com]). so even if you feel confident that they have a good reason for mining this data, you can't possibly have confidence that someone else isn't mining the DHS's data for their own uses.

      aside from that point, they've already cancelled one project [com.com] like this because they weren't taking any sort of privacy measures and lying about it on top of that, i suppo

  • by Sage Jackal (1073604) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:35AM (#18287106)
    Here's another article tackling this issue.

    http://infowars.net/articles/march2007/080307TIA.h tm [infowars.net]

    The part I really love, is their logo. A giant eye of Horus with beams coming out of it encompassing the Earth.

    Is it me or does anyone else find that just the slightest bit odd?

    • by cp.tar (871488)

      A giant eye of Horus
      ImpSec?
    • by l3v1 (787564)
      No, it's not odd. It's probably the only honest manifestation of this project's intentions.
       
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @06:19AM (#18287256)
      The eye is pure Masonic, and I know I'll take flack on this, but this is all straight out of the Illuminati playbook too. Makes it so much easier to control the public. Wish I was merely paranoid, but way too many people know that a lot more underlies history than the civics teacher (assuming there are any in high school anymore) ever covers. This eye logo thing is megacreepy. I assume I'll end up in Gitmo for conspiring to raise doubt about the necessity of spying on everyone.

      I hope you all realize how many Congressional representatives are being blackmailed. Those phone taps aren't going to waste. Look how effective J. Edgar Hoover was blackmailing people, and he didn't even have computerized help gathering dirt. So, yeah, creepy eyeball.

      • The eye is pure Masonic, and I know I'll take flack on this, but this is all straight out of the Illuminati playbook too.

        As a Mason, I'm always a little bit amused by these comments. The reality of a Lodge meeting is that we have a business meeting, grouse about the price of postage for our newsletter, then go downstairs to eat pie and drink coffee (decaf because it's late). I wish that Lodge was as glamorous as TV and countless conspiracy theories make it, but then, "House" also is a lot cooler than yo


    • It's Masonic, or maybe Theosophist if you prefer. As long as it's in the Capstone, I don't think the actual look of the eye matters much. An Eye of Horus or 'udjat' looks much more gothicky. You can google it easily enough.

    • Oh, no we're doomed, I tell you! I read it in a comic book somewhere.
    • I find it so odd that in fact, I don't believe it. Can we get a independent collaboration of this outside of a blog from the tinfoil hat brigade?

      Chris Mattern
  • Funny how this came out just as we are hearing on NPR that the FBI underreported by 20% their use of so-called "National Security Letters", and how there is insufficient oversight on their use, according to the DOJ inspector general.
  • U.S. Democracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by j35ter (895427) on Friday March 09, 2007 @05:45AM (#18287156)
    Ok, I gave up on the U.S. quite a while ago. If *that* is the freedom you were proclaiming for the last few decade, then let me move to the USSR...oh, you brought them *democracy*...damned! :)

    As long as good (old) Europe is free(until you bring us democracy too;) I'll just stick to my side of the atlantic (and the channel).

    But seriously, U.S. citizens, aware of their surroundings, must be pretty frustrated by these moves.

    • by l3v1 (787564)
      U.S. citizens, aware of their surroundings, must be pretty frustrated

      U.S. citizens

      aware of their surroundings

      Yeah. They must be.

      As long as good (old) Europe is free(until you bring us democracy too;)

      One day they will realise we need salvation too :)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by j35ter (895427)

        One day they will realise we need salvation too :)
        Sure, combine that with the UK's public surveillance system, and voila, there you have a modern society every smalltown dictator dreams of.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It is done in the USA, Blair then copies the ideas in the UK, then this stuff is harmonized up to EU level as an anti-terrorism measure. So you're not safe from this stuff in Europe either.

      There's examples with SWIFT.
      SWIFT violated Belgium banking law and EU privacy law, and USA FISA law when it handed all it's data to the NSA & CIA. UK banks were complicit in this, and would also face prosecution.

      Instead, the EU Commission took over the case from the Belgiums to 'coordinate the response', and are curre
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dreamchaser (49529)
      First off, there are plenty of things you can trash the US for, but Russia's dictatorship is not one of them.

      Second, with regards to Europe, I refer you to the ubiquitous surveillance cameras in the UK, the new law in France forbidding non registered journalists from photographing street violence, etc. The list goes on. Europe is no more free than the US, and probably less in many respects.
  • I think it has gotta do with helping corporates than fighting terrorism.
    Such mining of data by any single corporation is almost impossible without the HP-Pretext suits.
    Hence, if the corporates pay the politicians to make the Govt. to undertake such a study, they can benefit from it.
    Why else do we need to analyze credit card statements, spending patterns, etc?
    Since politicians, especially republicans have no qualms about spending our tax money on such a thing, they give it a sinister (FUD) name that talks a
    • by k1e0x (1040314)
      Congress could stop the war and impeach the president today. Do you wonder why they do not? The Democrats want the war just as much as the Republicans. Beyond making many many negative statements about the presidents handeling of the war to the press can you name one signifiant thing the Democrats have actually done to stop the administration do anything?

      "file charges" under the illegal Patriot act and ligitimise it?

      People like you piss me off because you know somethings wrong with your country but your ent
      • Does war on poverty mean like War on Terror? Does it mean we will have more Katrinas to wipe out more New orleans'es?
  • by jeevesbond (1066726) on Friday March 09, 2007 @06:20AM (#18287260) Homepage

    We've got something similar to this, it's called:

    Assimilating,
    Reasoning,
    Statistical,
    Enhancement,
    Highlighting,
    Online,
    Linkage and
    Encryption

    Luckily no-one cared about our version as we've already got CCTV everywhere [bbc.co.uk].

    Welcome to the surveillance society. Come on in, just don't say anything that might result in your arrest. Things like: 'I'm not too fond of our current administration, I may vote for someone different next time,' are a definite no-no. Just stay on-message, never have anything to hide and you will be fine!

    • by dave420 (699308)

      Surveillance is not the problem. CCTV doesn't mean squat, as it does nothing a policeman on the corner can do. The big problem is when CCTV, your bank statements, travel records, phone records, shopping history, TV channel preference, online history, etc. are automatically linked together and assumptions made. THAT's dangerous, as that can NOT be performed by a single policeman, thereby terribly shifting power towards the authorities and anonymity away from the public.

      This "surveillance society" tag is

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tiny-e (940381)
        I don' think the people/governments that are interested in eroding your civil liberties really care _where_ you step on to the slippery slope... just as long as you get there.

      • The first thing everyone does after installing cameras everywhere is install facial recognition and license plate readers, which links everything together. I'd be horrified if my movements were being tracked, monitored and analyzed 24/7.
    • by Syberghost (10557)
      Actually, you have EXACTLY this, and have been a part of it since Clinton started the program in the mid '90s.
  • by jonwil (467024) on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:18AM (#18287448)
    The question that should be asked about any new piece of anti-terrorism legislation or any anti-terrorism program is simple. If this program was in place before September 11, would it have stopped the catastrophe or made it less serious (e.g. the planes still being hijacked but the world trade centers not actually being hit or collapsing)?

    If the answer to this question is NO then the question must be asked, is it worth giving up our civil liberties for a program or law that would not have stopped the terrorists in the first place. And the answer to that should be a resounding NO.

    Unfortunately as long as we have politicians who are more willing to listen to a man named after a plant than after the people who voted for them in the first place, we will continue to see anti-terrorism programs and legislation that erode our civil liberties without even doing anything that would have actually had an effect on the September 11 hijackers in the first place.

    I would say "thank god I don't live in America" but given that our prime minister will do anything Bush says and then some, we too are seeing all sorts of nasty laws that we don't need and that do nothing to benefit our country or stop terrorism. Thankfully there is an election coming up later this year or so and I can go and do my bit to vote the bastard Howard and his party out of office (I just hope more people follow suit)
    • i mean it doesn't take a rocket scientist.

      put aa batteries in buildings with:
      1 - proximity censors
      2 - automated radio warnings for unwitting pleasure pilots

      jets travel at some 600 mph.. in crashes usually the largest pieces left (besides the tail which almost always survives) are the size of dinner plates..
      so, it's a question of the greater good.. shred a plane full of already doomed passengers with AA fire to mitigate the damage it will do to the building it is about to impact.

      i'd say one battery on each c
  • by giafly (926567) on Friday March 09, 2007 @07:37AM (#18287536)
    This is no different from a supermarket loyalty scheme [wikipedia.org], except that you can't opt out.

    The sooner Homeland Security start offering discount points and a frequent flyer program the better - to reward loyal citizens - otherwise it's just a rip-off.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I don't get about the slashdot community is how articles such as this one lead to pointless, angry rambling, while stories on similarly worrisome developments in foreign countries (think videotaping violence in France, banning of Nazi memorabilia, ...) are usually met with a load of hateful comments on the inferiority of the countries in question. Just take the "America is the freest of all" postings. They could fill books. Most of you people here are from America, so why don't you actually try to take
  • by finkployd (12902) on Friday March 09, 2007 @09:06AM (#18288142) Homepage
    Several of you have been asking "could this program have prevented 9/11?". No, absolutely not. Did we all forget that after 9/11 all of the intelligence agencies dug into their records and found all kinds of warning signs and other indicators that 9/11 was going to happen?

    Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but the point is they had the intel necessary to predict and prevent this, but it was lost in the noise. What they need is not more electronic noise to sift through (and electronic wild goose chases to go on) but better human intelligence. Grepping through all of the worlds internet traffic and phone records is not nearly as useful as having a single agent embedded with a terrorist group or even paying a couple of informers in the "extremist Muslim" community.

    One can reasonably argue that flooding the TLA agencies with this data will make their jobs harder and the overall counter terrorism situation worse. What it will accomplish however is pumping mullions of dollars into the private contractors, while allowing the intelligence agencies to justify raising their budgets and hiring more people to run this program. Which do you think is the real goal?

    This is not about catching terrorists OR spying on Americans in an effort to turn us into a 1984 police state. It's about money, plain and simple.

    Finkployd
    • by j-turkey (187775)

      +1 to that. This all seems more about using the public's fear to grab more power than a move to make the country a safer place.

  • Thoughtcrime (Score:2, Insightful)

    by superbus1929 (1069292)
    It's sickening how often we can reference Orwell nowadays, but that is where we've landed ourselves. Speaking of Orwell, how has history viewed Stalin?

    People are going to say "well, if you're doing nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about". As if people have the right to judge me, of course. And that's the problem: who's doing the judging? Just what is "wrong" and "right"? Yes, we know that something that hurts another person is definately wrong, I'm not debating those issues. What I'm debating i
  • I fully expect any Snoop Computer System to include a diamond-encrusted pimp cup and lots of topless girls smoking bubonic chronic.

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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