TIA report addresses privacy concerns

In a report released to Congress today, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency pledged to assess privacy concerns and provide rigorous oversight to a controversial system intended to track terrorist activity. The agency also changed the system's name.

The Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) project, formerly Total Information Awareness, was renamed after privacy groups raised concerns the system would gather sensitive information and track American citizens.

"This name created in some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for developing dossiers on U.S. citizens," the report stated. "That is not [the Defense Department's] intent in pursuing this program."

TIA is a research project that would integrate search tools, such as data search, translation and pattern recognition, into a network aimed at analyzing possible terrorist activity. The information would then allow policy-makers to make decisions in preventing terrorist attacks, the report stated.

Since the program began in fiscal 2003, privacy groups and members of Congress have scrutinized the plans to search government and commercial databases for information. However, the report stated that the system would use only foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information legally obtained and usable by the government under law. The system will also use information from artificial data generated to model behavioral patterns, the report said.

TIA is still in the research stage. For it to be used, several factors would be addressed, the report said:

* Search tools must be tested to show they are accurate and efficient.

* Safeguards must be built in to reduce opportunities for abuse. For example, DARPA is researching an audit trail tool and tools that keep the source of information confidential.

* Security measures should be in place to protect against hackers.

* Agencies wanting to use TIA must first conduct a legal review that examines the uses of TIA and legal issues raised.

* Agencies will also have to develop effective oversight of the system's user before it will be deployed.

To continue to assess the privacy concerns, DOD has created an oversight board of senior department and intelligence community representatives, chaired by the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. The Defense secretary also will receive advice on legal and policy issues, the report said.

"The protection of privacy and civil liberties is an integral and paramount goal in the development of counterterrorism technologies and in their implementation," the report stated.

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