Recommended background: Panopticism & surveillance society.
This program used to be called "Total Information Awareness", but the name was changed to something slightly less Orwellian.
Get out your tinfoil helmets
and prepare to be amazed at how far the American government will go in the name of protecting the citizenry from terrorism
. From the website of this brand spanking new DARPA
project, headed by John Poindexter
The goal of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program is to revolutionize the ability of the United States to detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists - and decipher their plans - and thereby enable the U.S. to take timely action to successfully preempt and defeat terrorist acts. To that end, the TIA program objective is to create a counter-terrorism information system that: (1) increases information coverage by an order of magnitude, and affords easy future scaling; (2) provides focused warnings within an hour after a triggering event occurs or an evidence threshold is passed; (3) can automatically queue analysts based on partial pattern matches and has patterns that cover 90% of all previously known foreign terrorist attacks; and, (4) supports collaboration, analytical reasoning and information sharing so that analysts can hypothesize, test and propose theories and mitigating strategies about possible futures, so decision-makers can effectively evaluate the impact of current or future policies and prospective courses of action.
Sounds innocuous enough, doesn't it? How do they plan to accomplish this? From their flowchart, one sees that they plan to gather information from these sources:
- Biometric Data
- Transactional Data
- Intelligence sources
What are they going to do with all this data? Pass it through a magic filter of "privacy and security" into "Automated Virtual Data Repositories", whence it will be transfered to a "Collaborative Multi-Agency Analytical
Environment" and thence to a "Collaborative Multi-Agency Policy
Environment", then processed into decisions.
When one cuts through the corporate doublespeak
, what does this mean? This agency is going to collect data on every conceivable facet of American life and analyze it for patterns that point to terrorism, thus neutralizing the terrorist's advantage of anonymity and secrecy.
<Prophecy of doom>
Will this expand beyond its original scope until the surveillance of American life passes anything George Orwell ever dreamed of? Does the Pope shit in the woods? The war against terrorism has finally overstepped any reasonable bounds. If this goes through, the terrorists have already won.
Goodbye America and goodnight freedom. It was nice while it lasted.
</Prophecy of doom>
Information from http://www.darpa.mil/iao/index.htm .
Update: I was wrong. As of 2/24/03 Congress has passed an amendment banning use of this system on American citizens and severely restricting it everywhere else. We can all take down the tinfoil curtains now.
Another Update (7/18/03): The Senate has voted unanimously to block funding for the Information Awareness Office, effectively ending the TIA program. Good riddance, says I.