Congress funds Defense, kills Terrorism Information Awareness

Congress on Thursday completed the fiscal 2004 Defense Department appropriations bill that permanently kills a far-reaching technology research program that set off a furor over rights to citizens' personal information.

"Total Information Awareness [TIA] is no more," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a key player in blocking the program. "The lights are out."

Wyden said in an interview that the discovery of millions of dollars for a terrorist-strike gambling Web site as another aspect of TIA gave him additional incentive to keep pressing to eliminate the program.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will continue its mission of developing visionary defense technologies. The appropriations bill eliminates the Information Awareness Office under which TIA was being developed, but transfers certain technologies deemed non-controversial to other places within DARPA. These include technologies related to biowarfare, wargaming and speech recognition.

The provision also "does not restrict the national foreign intelligence program from using processing, analysis and collaboration tools for counterterrorism foreign intelligence purposes." Wyden said the foreign intelligence gathering would mean, "We're not going to have Americans who are law-abiding spied on on American soil."

The Defense appropriations bill, passed 95-0 by the Senate on Thursday, provides $368 billion overall to the department. The House passed the measure on Wednesday.

Experts at a Thursday conference of the Center for Strategic and International Studies debated the need to have technologies like TIA to defeat terrorists.

William Parrish, Homeland Security acting assistant secretary for information analysis, said he would continue to stress improving intelligence before making a higher priority of sharing information with states and localities, despite those governments' daily calls for more information.

Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe and Johnson, noted that the only person to lose their job as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks-one of the "biggest screwups ever" in the United States-was TIA director John Poindexter.

He said TIA-like technologies will be needed but Congress and the public are overreacting to fears about civil liberties. "The Democrats provide the noise, and the Republicans provide the votes" to kill these programs, he said. Baker acknowledged, however, that civil liberties would be given up as technologies are put to use.

John MacGaffin, president of MacGaffin and associations, said the headlong rush to acquire or develop all but the most essential security technologies should be given a "time out" until it is clear what is needed. But he advocated the development of technology such as the TIA project that would allow law enforcement to sort through large amounts of data to find terrorist activity.

The best way to protect against terrorist attack, MacGaffin said, is counterintuitive. The government must add more "hay" to the information haystack in order to find the terrorist needle, he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.