Total Information Awareness (TIA) project is a research program in
its initial stages. Federal agencies eventually could use
TIA-developed technology to share information more effectively and
to access information already available to law enforcement and
intelligence agencies in a less costly manner. If the research is
successful, TIA will provide the intelligence and law enforcement
agencies with a powerful and safe tool for unearthing suspected
in Congress have recently expressed concern over the program,
fearing that it might be overly intrusive of American liberty.
There are understandable and reasonable worries that giving the
government data surveillance capabilities to fight terrorism might
lead to unacceptable intrusions into the private lives of
law-abiding Americans. Congress must, therefore, take some steps to
protect Americans from unwarranted and unnecessary intrusions.
the picture of TIA offered by its most vocal critics is not
accurate. Even the legitimate concerns do not warrant the wholesale
rejection of TIA's potential benefits, especially before its
capacities are realized. Rather, research and development of TIA
can and should continue, guided by the fundamental principle that
no information access technology should be implemented in a manner
that alters or contravenes existing legal restrictions on the
government's ability to access data about private individuals. More
particularly, there should be:
authorization and strong congressional oversight
Before any program like TIA--with both great potential
utility and significant potential for abuse--is implemented, it
ought, in the first instance, to be affirmatively approved by the
American people's representatives. Moreover, Congress should commit
to a strict regime of oversight of the TIA program to prevent
mission creep or abuse.
that to happen, Congress must not strangle the program in the crib
by means of an appropriations rider that stops research or
development until Congress gets its act together. Such a rider may
be well-intended, but it would have the effect of encouraging
congressional delay and empowering a committed minority to employ
dilatory tactics to kill any eventual authorization. The threat of
another horrific attack is simply too grave to justify prematurely
cutting off such a promising anti-terrorism tool as TIA.
of TIA-developed technology
TIA data inquiries to correlate data and uncover potential
terrorist activity should be done (whether for law enforcement or
intelligence purposes) only to investigate terrorist, foreign
intelligence, or national security activities; the TIA technology
should never be used for ordinary criminal activity. Congress
should require certification of adherence to these limits by
Senate-confirmed political appointees and limit access to the
results of any analysis derived from applying the TIA search models
to a small cadre of analysts. In addition, those developing TIA
should be required to construct a system that protects privacy by
disaggregating individual identifiers from pattern-based
information until after the pattern is independently deemed to be
of sufficient interest to warrant further investigation.
No alteration of
existing legal restrictions on the government's ability to access
data about private individuals
Current laws regarding the issuance of search warrants and
subpoenas for domestic information about private individuals should
be applied to TIA in equivalent, unchanged form. Congress should
also continue existing restrictions on the collection of foreign
intelligence data and should not extend any domestic prohibitions
on the use of TIA technology to its use on overseas databases
containing information on non-citizens.
protection for fundamental constitutionally protected
It is imperative that any implementing legislation
contains an absolute prohibition on accessing databases relating to
support of political organizations that propagate ideas--even ones
favorable to terrorist regimes.
criminal penalties for abuse
The TIA system must incorporate, as part of its basic
structure, an audit trail system that keeps a complete and accurate
record of activities that are conducted using the system.
Violations of prohibitions enacted by Congress should be punishable
by the executive branch through its administrative authority and
should be sanctionable both civilly and criminally.
provision in the authorization
A sunset provision of five years would be ample and would
provide a sufficient time for Congress to assemble concrete
information on which to base a further reauthorization
The TIA program is no panacea. There is no guarantee that
it will prevent further terrorist attacks against America. But
neither is it an Orwellian monster whose construction will
irretrievably alter the landscape of American liberty and freedom.
Rather, as with most innovative proposals, it is a technological
development capable of both use and abuse. To view the potential
for misuse as the basis for rejection of a new technology is,
however, to despair of technological change and improvement. The
better approach is a thoughtful and measured one: examining the
possibilities of the new technology in the context of existing law
and taking steps to ensure that its development is consistent with
those limitations. Viewed through this prism, the research into the
development of TIA should proceed--with appropriate safeguards.
Prematurely rejecting new technology is no
answer to the asymmetric threat of terror. Rather, Congress and the
executive branch must work to harness technology's potential
benefits and limit its potential abuses. In short, civil liberties
and national security need not be traded off in equal measure.
Americans deserve essential protections for both and should insist
that policymakers engage in the difficult task of ensuring that
they get them.
Paul Rosenzweig is Senior
Legal Research Fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
at The Heritage Foundation and Adjunct Professor of Law at George
Mason University. Michael
Scardaville is Policy Analyst for Homeland Security in the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies
at The Heritage Foundation.