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Surveillance Plan Worries GOP Senator
The TIA program aims to develop technologies to sift through "ultra-large" data warehouses and networked computers for threatening patterns among everyday transactions, such as credit card purchases and travel reservations. The systems would, among other things, help analysts search randomly for indications of travel to risky areas, suspicious e-mails, odd fund transfers and improbable medical activity.
The effort, a project of the Defense Department's Information Awareness Office run by former national security adviser John Poindexter, has become the focus of heated criticism from civil liberties groups and some lawmakers, who fear a potential intrusion on privacy rights.
Bush administration officials have said that the criticism is overblown and that the project is designed only to thwart terrorist activity overseas. But in response to questions from Grassley, Defense Department Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz acknowledged that several domestic agencies, including the Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security, have talked with the Pentagon about the project.
Schmitz also confirmed that the FBI is negotiating a formal agreement "for possible experimentation with TIA technology in the future," according to a copy of his response.
Such close contact, Grassley said in a statement, "only heightens my concern about the blurring of lines between domestic law enforcement and military security efforts."
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the agency must communicate and coordinate with other parts of the federal government as part of the war on terrorism. "We will shield Americans from violations of their civil liberties . . . while we work across the government to stop terrorists from killing more innocent Americans," Corallo said.
Poindexter told The Washington Post last fall that he was working with the FBI to help build a data-warehousing system. He has courted ties with several other government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration.
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