NYTimes.com Article: Senate Rejects Privacy Project
Fri, 24 Jan 2003 13:37:20 -0500 (EST)
This article from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hmmm... the Times' crusade wins out!
Of course, I'm betting they'll file the relevant paperwork on how the safeguards will be implemented, and TIA will quietly be back on track -- and renamed!
Senate Rejects Privacy Project
January 24, 2003
By ADAM CLYMER
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - The Senate voted today to bar
deployment of a Pentagon project to search for terrorists
by scanning information in Internet mail and in the
commercial databases of health, financial and travel
companies here and abroad.
The curbs on the project, called the Total Information
Awareness Program, were adopted without debate and by
unanimous consent as part of a package of amendments to an
omnibus spending bill. House leaders had no immediate
comment on the surprise action, which will almost certainly
go to a House-Senate conference. Neither did the White
House or the Defense Department.
Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who proposed the
amendment, said after the vote that it passed so easily
because dismayed Republican senators had told him that
"this is about the most far-reaching government
surveillance proposal we have ever heard about." He said
the amendment means "there will be concrete checks on the
government's ability to snoop on law-abiding Americans."
Under the legislation passed today, research and
development of the system would have to halt within 60 days
of enactment of the bill unless the Defense Department
submitted a detailed report about the program, including
its costs, goals, impact on privacy and civil liberties and
prospects for success in stopping terrorists. The research
could also continue if President Bush certified to Congress
that the report could not be provided or that a halt "would
endanger the national security of the United States."
The limits on deploying, or using, the system are stricter.
While it could be used to support lawful military and
foreign intelligence operations, it could not be used in
this country until Congress had passed new legislation
specifically authorizing its use.
The Wyden amendment also included a statement that Congress
believed "the Total Information Awareness programs should
not be used to develop technologies for use in conducting
intelligence activities or law enforcement activities
against United States persons without appropriate
consultation with Congress or without clear adherence to
principle to protect civil liberty and privacy."
The program is being developed by the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency, a high-tech unit that played a
major role in the creation of the Internet. It is headed by
John M. Poindexter, a retired rear admiral who was
convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-contra
scandal but subsequently cleared on the grounds that he had
been granted immunity for his testimony.
Admiral Poindexter described the program's goals in a
California speech last year when he said "we must become
much more efficient and more clever in the ways we find new
sources of data, mine information from the new and the old,
generate information, make it available for analysis,
convert it to knowledge and create actionable options."
As soon as the existence of the project was disclosed last
November, it drew intense criticism from civil libertarians
on the left and the right, ranging from the American Civil
Liberties Union to the Free Congress Foundation and the
Tonight Ralph Neas, head of People for the American Way,
one of the critical groups, issued a statement hailing the
vote. It said: "Until today, the Bush administration has
proceeded unchecked in many aspects of the war on
terrorism. I hope that today's action demonstrates
Congress' willingness to perform oversight of the executive
branch and challenge attempts to undermine constitutional
Even without extensive debate, the measure was weighed
across the political spectrum of the Senate. No senator
sought to block it by withholding the unanimous consent its
passage required. So Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the
Republican who heads the Appropriations Committee, almost
casually slid it into a package of minor amendments to the
The one Republican who had put his name on the measure as a
co-sponsor, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, issued a
statement afterwards saying, "Our amendment should make
sure that the T.I.A. program strikes the very careful
balance that is needed to protect civil liberties while at
the same time protecting a Americans against terrorists."
A Democratic co-sponsor, Senator Dianne Feinstein of
California, struck a similar note. She issued a statement
saying the measure "fences in the program to prevent it
from being abused to invade Americans' privacy and civil
liberties but does so without impeding our military and
Senator Wyden also stressed accountability, saying the vote
showed "the Senate isn't going to let the program just grow
without tough oversight." He said the reporting requirement
"puts some real pressure on them" and "Congress will no
longer be in the dark."
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