TIA spurs rejection, interest

Mitchell Kapor home page

Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corp. and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has resigned from Groove Networks Inc.'s board after learning that the company's software was being used as part of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) system.

When asked why he left the company, Kapor said only that it was a "delicate subject" and that he had resigned to pursue his interests in open-source software, according to the New York Times.

However, a person close to Kapor said Kapor was uncomfortable with the fact that Groove's software was being used to test the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's TIA system. The system is the brainchild of John Poindexter, who was national security adviser to President Reagan and may be best known for his part in the infamous Iran-Contra scandal.

"Mr. Kapor resigned from the board to focus 100 percent of his time on nonprofit activities," a Groove spokesman told the Times. The company provides desktop collaboration software that has been used to enable intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials to share data in tests of the TIA system.

Kapor resigned from the board on Jan. 13, and a spokeswoman said today that he would not comment on TIA. She said he is now focusing on the Open Source Applications Foundation, a venture that Kapor started about a year ago that is partially funded with $5 million of his own money.

In theory, TIA would enable national security analysts to detect, classify, track, understand and preempt terrorist attacks against the United States by using surveillance and spotting patterns in public and private transactions.

The system, parts of which are already operational, incorporates transactional data systems, including private credit card and travel records, biometric authentication technologies, intelligence data and automated virtual data repositories. The goal is to create an "end-to-end, closed-loop system" that will help military and intelligence analysts make decisions related to national security, said Robert Popp, deputy director of DARPA's Information Awareness Office, the group Poindexter leads.

Groove's technology is not the only one being used as part of TIA's development. Last month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained documents that showed DARPA had received about 180 proposals after issuing a broad agency announcement last March, and had issued 26 approval letters.

The most recent letter released was dated Feb. 5 and went to Science Applications International Corp. The list of contractors seeking funding in the program includes industry giants such as Lockheed Martin Corp. as well as small technology start-ups and large research universities.

The selected vendors were awarded contracts in three topic areas:

* Repository technologies. The broad agency announcement describes these as a "new kind of extremely large, omnimedia, virtually centralized, and semantically rich information repository that is not constrained by today's limited commercial database products."

* Collaboration, automation and cognitive aid technologies. This is where the Groove desktop collaboration software would be used, although that company is not on the list secured by EPIC.

* Prototype system technologies. These are described as an "end-to-end, closed-loop prototype system to aid in countering terrorism through prevention by integrating technology and components from existing DARPA programs."

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