ACLU fears return of TIA

The American Civil Liberties Union fears that legislation stemming from 9-11 Commission recommendations that is kicking around Capitol Hill will revive the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program.

As the Senate debates the bills, ACLU officials called on senators to eliminate an information-sharing provision that privacy advocates believe could lead to the resurrection of the controversial TIA. That program was killed last year amid an outcry about its broad information-gathering abilities.

"Americans do not want Big Brother following their every move," said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington, D.C., Legislative Office. TIA "was abandoned because of privacy concerns raised on both sides of the aisle. The Senate should amend this provision to ensure that law enforcement has access to the tools they need while being mindful of protecting one our most cherished freedoms -- the right to privacy."

ACLU members point to Section 206 of the Collins-Lieberman National Intelligence Reform Act. That part of the bill would create an information-sharing network that the union members say has insufficient safeguards to address privacy and civil liberties concerns.

"Through this information sharing-network, agencies will have access to commercial information," said Jesselyn McCurdy, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "It's not clear from the language of the bill that the private sector would not have access."

Another concern is watch lists. "There are still no standards for getting people's names off the lists," she said. ACLU members said someone should audit inaccurate information once a complaint is filed.

Privacy worries are unfounded, said bill co-sponsor Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). The legislation ensures that "privacy and civil liberties concerns are adequately addressed," Collins said in a statement.

Anti-terror organizations need the benefits of information sharing, she said.

"We simply can no longer tolerate a system where the pieces of the puzzle are not assembled, where the CIA and the FBI each have vital, urgent, compelling intelligence, but no one puts together the picture," Collins said.

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