August 13, 2003 | News Releases on National Security and Defense

Proper Safeguards Can Make TIA Workable

Civil libertarians' protests have taken a toll on the Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) system proposed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration.


The administration's original leader, John Poindexter, resigned after his idea to create a futures market to predict terror attacks sparked widespread controversy. And in May, the project's name was changed from "Total Information Awareness" to defuse criticism that TIA's mission is to spy on ordinary American citizens.


But according to Paul Rosenzweig, an attorney and legal scholar at The Heritage Foundation, concerns that the technology will be abused are speculative, at best. Officials should not let the protests and the controversy sway TIA from the vital role it can play in preventing future Sept.11-type attacks. The program can and should be designed with proper safeguards, he writes in a new paper from The Heritage Foundation. Among them:             

  • Congressional authorization should be required before any "data mining" technology (or "Knowledge Discovery" technology) is activated.

  • TIA officials should need a subpoena to search "third-party" data holders (such as telephone records or credit-card information).

  • Those who appear to fit a terrorist profile should be investigated further only if a Senate-confirmed official approves and only if the investigation focuses solely on those activities that form the alleged pattern of terrorist behavior.

  • No identities of suspected terrorists should be released without the approval of a federal judge.

Experts who have studied the attacks of Sept.11, 2001, say there "was certainly a lack of dot-connecting" before the attacks, but the more critical failure was "too few dots to connect," says Rosenzweig. "Properly constructed, the TIA system can protect citizens from violence and preserve civil liberties. It can be done, and we'd be foolish not to try."

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