TIA struggles continue

Intelligence officials, who stand to gain the most from the controversial Terrorism Information Awareness program, told an oversight committee last week that the project is too ambitious.

At a July 22 meeting of the Defense Department's Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee, officials from the CIA and the FBI said the system would be too complex in its attempt to integrate a wide variety of technologies. "I welcome the tools, investment and experiments, but it is unbounded," said Maureen Baginski, the FBI's executive assistant director for intelligence, adding that TIA needs a more specific goal than stopping terrorism.

Originally called Total Information Awareness, the project would help national security analysts track and pre-empt terrorist attacks by spotting patterns in credit card and travel records, biometric authentication technologies, intelligence data and automated virtual data repositories.

Privacy advocates have sharply criticized the program, parts of which are already in use. DOD established the committee as an external board in February to ensure that the information awareness program maintains proper regard for constitutional laws and existing privacy policies. An internal DOD committee has the same goal.

Alan Wade, chief information officer at the CIA, said the tools the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing for the TIA program are valuable, but integrating the solutions will be difficult. "The scope may be too big," he said.

Nuala O'Connor Kelly, chief privacy officer at the Homeland Security Department, said it would be responsible to embrace technologies that can boost national security. But effective solutions are "narrowly focused and narrowly tailored," she said.

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