The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

Iran-Contra scandal, is responsible for TIA as Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Information Awareness Office ( ). The stated pur- pose of TIA is to look for patterns in public electronic databases that might help nab terrorists before they attack, but some observers are concerned the plans will infringe on the privacy of law-abiding citizens. The infor- mation gathered by TIA might include airline travel, spending habits and other transactions record- ed on computer databases. TIA designers also hope that the system will be able to rapidly translate for- eign language databases. On its Web site, the American Civil Liberties Union ( www.aclu. org ) says TIA “may be the closest thing to a true ‘Big Brother’ program that has ever been seriously contem- plated in the United States.” The ACLU says that TIA would kill priva- cy in America, harbors a potential for abuse, veers from a tradition of limit- ing surveillance to those suspected of crimes and, finally, would not be effective in combating terrorism. The TIA project home page coun- ters the critics ( iao/TIASystems.htm ). The FBI’s widely reported failure to link isolated pieces of information that might have prevented 9/11 highlights the need for a system that automatically gathers and analyzes information, according to the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Web site. The site also says that the program would only gather publicly available information and is developing auditing systems to guard against misuse. There is a wide variety of TIA dis- cussion online, including a number of shrill protest pages. One such site demonstrates the type of information that is publicly available by publishing Adm. Poindexter’s home address and telephone number along with aerial photos of his house ( http://cryp- ). More intellectually stimulating material is also available. A search for “total information awareness” on the Cato Institute’s Web site returns a series of well-written articles by dif- ferent authors, which discuss the pro- posed intelligence-gathering system ( ) . A similar search on also yields interesting pieces ( ). The Electronic Privacy Infor- mation Center, an advocacy group, has a page on its site that is regularly updated with TIA news ( www.epic. org ). ■ — Stephen E. Mather C Y B E R N O T E S 12 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 3