Congress seeks to protect Americans from TIA while TIA seeks to protect Americans from terrorists:
- House and Senate negotiators have agreed that a Pentagon project intended to detect terrorists by monitoring Internet e-mail and commercial databases for health, financial and travel information cannot be used against Americans.
The conferees also agreed to restrict further research on the program without extensive consultation with Congress.
House leaders agreed with Senate fears about the threat to personal privacy in the Pentagon program, known as Total Information Awareness. So they accepted a Senate provision in the omnibus spending bill passed last month, said Representative Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who heads the defense appropriations subcommittee.
Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, said of the program, “Jerry’s against it, and I’m against it, so we kept the Senate amendment.” Of the Pentagon, he said, “They’ve got some crazy people over there.”
….The negotiators’ decision was praised by Democrats and Republicans and by outside groups on the right and the left. Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who sponsored the Senate amendment, said, “It looks like Congress is getting the message from the American people loud and clear and that is: Stop the trifling of the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.”
….The total information concept would enable a team of intelligence analysts to gather and view information from databases, pursue links between individuals and groups, respond to automatic alerts, and share information, all from their individual computers. It could link such different electronic sources as video feeds from airport surveillance cameras, credit card transactions, airline reservations and records of telephone calls. The data would be filtered through software that would constantly seek suspicious patterns.
The Defense Department had already begun to discuss the use of the system with the F.B.I. and perhaps other agencies. Now, without a new law specifically authorizing its use and a new, specific appropriation to pay for it, the program could not be used against United States citizens. But it could be employed in support of lawful military operations outside the United States and lawful foreign intelligence operations conducted wholly against non-United States citizens. [NY Timews]
Which is as it should be: with citizenship should come privileges, to paraphrase American Express.