DARPA, Paranoia and TIA - Terrorist Information Awareness

DARPA, Paranoia and TIA - Terrorist Information Awareness

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by Mike Banks Valentine

The web exists entirely due to the US government's DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] although the commercialization of the internet and it's success have little to do with DARPA, they proposed recently that they restructure it in such a way as to eliminate the relative anonymity we can enjoy online. That proposal was dubbed eDNA and can be reviewed in a New York Times Article here:

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"The plan, known as eDNA, called for developing a new version of the Internet that would include enclaves where it would be impossible to be anonymous while using the network. The technology would have divided the Internet into secure `public network highways,' where a computer user would have needed to be identified, and `private network alleyways,' which would not have required identification."

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Now the fact that this nutty idea was discarded is proof that saner minds prevailed, but what is truly frightening is that there are similarly absurd proposals being seriously considered as a part of the Homeland Security Department. The worst of those proposals are also coming from DARPA and are receiving serious consideration by congress.

I am proud to moderate a discussion list called I-Privacy for Adventive.com and in that role I closely follow the news related to internet privacy to allow me to effectively lead and understand privacy discussions. There is often so much news on internet security and privacy issues that it is difficult to stay on top of all of it and I publish links to news stories in the hopes that readers will also pay attention to those issues to facilitate an interesting and intelligent discourse.

But I'm stunned at how little news coverage surrounded the announcement of the Homeland Security proposal and the Bush administration's "Total Information Awareness" or "TIA" program, to be headed by Admiral John Poindexter, of Iran/ Contra fame. The media attention was very limited but for a New York Times article three weeks ago. Since then there has been little attention paid to this program, but I want to review the news links that I'm aware of and ask that readers send any additional news story links to I-Privacy as I believe this is one of the most serious attacks against personal privacy ever seen! I believe Big Brother is Here - Finally. TIA is his name.

In I-Privacy issue #31- I listed an opinion piece at C|Net from David Holtzman in which he satirizes about a Total Information Awareness type of system. This was before the TIA system was announced publicly. I laughed along with him when he said,

"Analysts call this predictive capability an 'Indications and Warning' system, although no one has ever come close to building anything this broad in scope. Some might also say that's a laughable idea."

Re-reading that piece is highly recommended in light of the TIA proposal. Go to:


The John Markoff New York Times article followed on November 9th announcing TIA.

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The week of November 14th I commented on that story and referenced the official pentagon web site outlining this absurd program. Go to:


Then came a fiery William Safire opinion piece. Go to:

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Then on Thursday evening November 14th Nightline did a segment on TIA. You can watch that on RealVideo or read the recap on the web site by visiting the ABC News Nightline page.

Rob Morse of the San Francisco Chronicle added his commentary titled, "Fighting terror by terrifying U.S. citizens"

That may seem like a fair amount of coverage for a story with lesser implications for your life. But I'm going to suggest that if this program moves forward and is not stopped dead in it's tracks, that we will all be very sorry we paid so little attention to it before it became a monster.

David Holtzman commented, before TIA was announced, in his piece at C|Net

Satire--the aim of this article--helps force people to examine the implications of their positions. Polarized posturing often leads to highly hairy outcomes, and nothing causes fuzz to sprout like some good old incomprehensible technology. The big question is, how much surveillance do we need to accomplish the goal of reasonable protection? Extreme solutions don't solve problems better--they just introduce new pain. Al-Qaida will eventually be wiped out, but the bureaucrat at the Department of Motor Vehicles and his buddies will be sniggering over your sexual proclivities for years. Years? That's right. And if you think that we're going to build and then throw away an information system this complex and expensive, I have some old voting machines in Florida to sell you.

Please pay attention to this issue now and let your elected representatives know how you feel before Big Brother (TIA) arrives.

TIA editorial cartoon by Mark Fiore


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