A rider on the Senate's 2004 Defense
Appropriations bill cuts off all funding for the research and
development of the Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program --
potentially a valuable tool in combating terrorism -- before
research is completed.
Congress needs to consider TIA in depth,
and the Senate should restore funding. Anything less demonstrates
little commitment to combating the threat of terrorism and is
nothing more than an abdication of responsibility.
Numerous Benefits of TIA
Section 8120 (a) of the
bill, which will likely be voted on in the Senate within the week,
states: "no funds appropriated or otherwise made available to the
Department of Defense…may be obligated or expended on
research and development on the Terrorism Information Awareness
Such language will preclude the kind of
thoughtful consideration necessary for an accurate assessment of
the program. Passage of this provision may end the debate before it
has even begun and is completely unjustified.
TIA-based technologies, if successfully
developed and applied within the confines of law, could offer
numerous benefits to the United States counter-terrorism efforts.
The Joint Inquiry into the Intelligence Failures of 9/11 identified
as the No. 1 problem - the intelligence and enforcement communities
did not share data related to terrorism effectively.
TIA could help address that problem,
mining and data integration, the most effective way
of solving that problem. In fact, early technologies developed
under the auspices of TIA are already providing such intelligence
sharing benefits for the Army's Intelligence and Security Command (which is
participating in field tests of TIA programs for military
applications), benefits that would be sacrificed by the Senate
- Providing federal agencies with
counterterrorism responsibilities a more efficient tool
for investigating suspected
terrorists and allow for the more effective screening for threats,
at places such as points of entry, airports and consular offices,
than the unsatisfactory watch lists of today.
Prematurely rejecting such promising new
technology is no answer to the asymmetric threat of terrorism - it
is a Luddite response to fear.
Funding Needed for Research
Section 8120 (b) of the pending bill states
that, while no funding will be allocated to research on TIA, if and
when the development of TIA is complete, any deployment or
implementation of the program will need the approval of Congress.
The provision demonstrates the Senate's confusion: It is
unreasonable and contradictory to expect that the Department of
Defense will complete the research and development of TIA without
And, while it is important that Congress
exercise its authority to establish parameters within which TIA
will be developed and implemented, congressional approval should
only be required for new technologies that are used for
investigatory or surveillance purposes, such as the searching of
commercial data. It should not be required for new technologies
that enhance intelligence sharing - a goal that is a far less
controversial and poses far fewer civil liberties questions. For
intelligence data already collected by the government creating such
an additional hurdle, reminiscent of the pre-9/11 era, is
unnecessary, unreasonable, and proves we have not learned the
lessons of that tragedy.
We agree: Congress needs to ensure that TIA
is not a vehicle for expanding the government's storehouse of
information about individuals. Rather, appropriately conceived, TIA
should mirror existing legal limitations.
It should neither expand nor contract the
corpus of data available for analysis. As a result, Congress needs
to consider TIA in depth before it destroys years of research and
development efforts and should not adopt a blanket prohibition
snuck into the bill without debate. Rather, Congress should commit
to doing the hard work of digging into the details of TIA and
examining its operation against the background of existing laws and
the existing terrorist threats at home and abroad. The Senate
should amend the Defense Appropriations bill to restore funding for
the research and development of TIA research and limit the need for
Congressional approval to cases dealing with non-governmental
private databases for surveillance or investigatory
Recommendations for Congress
- Congress must not strangle an important
ongoing research program by means of an appropriations rider that
stops research and development.
- Congress needs to seriously consider and
research the advantages of and challenges posed by technologies
such as TIA and must establish a sound oversight
- Congress ought to take time for a
thoughtful examination of the possibilities of the new technology
in the context of existing law and take steps to insure that its
development is consistent with those limitations.
Strangling this new technology with a
procedural noose shows little commitment to combating the threat of
terrorism and is nothing more than an abdication of