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[ba-unrev-talk] NYTimes.com Article: Conferees in Congress Bar Using a Pentagon Project on Americans

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Of the Pentagon, [Representative John Murtha] said, "They've got some crazy people over there."    (04)

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Conferees in Congress Bar Using a Pentagon Project on Americans    (06)

February 12, 2003
By ADAM CLYMER     (07)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 - House and Senate negotiators have
agreed that a Pentagon project intended to detect
terrorists by monitoring Internet e-mail and commercial
databases for health, financial and travel information
cannot be used against Americans.     (08)

The conferees also agreed to restrict further research on
the program without extensive consultation with Congress.     (09)

House leaders agreed with Senate fears about the threat to
personal privacy in the Pentagon program, known as Total
Information Awareness. So they accepted a Senate provision
in the omnibus spending bill passed last month, said
Representative Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who
heads the defense appropriations subcommittee.     (010)

Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the senior
Democrat on the subcommittee, said of the program, "Jerry's
against it, and I'm against it, so we kept the Senate
amendment." Of the Pentagon, he said, "They've got some
crazy people over there."     (011)

The only obstacles to the provision becoming law would be
the failure of the negotiators to reach an agreement on the
overall spending bill in which it is included, or a
successful veto by President Bush of the bill.     (012)

Lt. Cmdr. Donald Sewell, a Pentagon spokesman, defended the
program, saying, "The Department of Defense still feels
that it's a tool that can be used to alert us to terrorist
acts before they occur." He said, "It's not a program that
snoops into American citizens' privacy."     (013)

One important factor in the breadth of the opposition is
the fact that the research project is headed by Adm. John
M. Poindexter. Several members of Congress have said that
the admiral was an unwelcome symbol because he had been
convicted of lying to Congress about weapons sales to Iran
and illegal aid to Nicaraguan rebels, an issue with
constitutional ramifications, the Iran-contra affair. The
fact that his conviction was later reversed on the ground
that he had been given immunity for the testimony in which
he lied did not mitigate Congressional opinion, they said.     (014)

The negotiators' decision was praised by Democrats and
Republicans and by outside groups on the right and the
left. Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who sponsored
the Senate amendment, said, "It looks like Congress is
getting the message from the American people loud and clear
and that is: Stop the trifling of the civil liberties of
law-abiding Americans."     (015)

Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who
co-sponsored the Wyden amendment, said: "Protecting
Americans' civil liberties while at the same time winning
the war against terrorism has got to be top priority for
the United States. Congressional oversight of this program
will be a must as we proceed in the war against terror. The
acceptance of this amendment sends a signal that Congress
won't sit on its hands as the TIA program moves forward."     (016)

Lisa Dean, director of the Center for Technology at the
Free Congress Foundation, said, "I am thrilled to see
Congress taking responsibility in oversight, given the
depth of the debate on this issue."     (017)

Katie Corrigan, legislative counsel for the American Civil
Liberties Union, said: "This is a positive first step
toward protecting the privacy of Americans. Congress
represents the people's interests and appropriately
responded to broad public concern about a program that does
not reflect the goals of making us both safe and free."     (018)

The negotiators' decision meant almost complete failure for
a last-minute Pentagon effort, begun Friday, to protect the
program from the Wyden amendment by establishing advisory
committees to oversee the program.     (019)

The total information concept would enable a team of
intelligence analysts to gather and view information from
databases, pursue links between individuals and groups,
respond to automatic alerts, and share information, all
from their individual computers. It could link such
different electronic sources as video feeds from airport
surveillance cameras, credit card transactions, airline
reservations and records of telephone calls. The data would
be filtered through software that would constantly seek
suspicious patterns. 
The Defense Department had already begun to discuss the use
of the system with the F.B.I. and perhaps other agencies.
Now, without a new law specifically authorizing its use and
a new, specific appropriation to pay for it, the program
could not be used against United States citizens. But it
could be employed in support of lawful military operations
outside the United States and lawful foreign intelligence
operations conducted wholly against non-United States
citizens.     (020)

The negotiators did agree to extend from 60 to 90 days the
time the Defense Department would have to provide a
detailed report to Congress, including its costs, goals,
impact on privacy and civil liberties and prospects for
successes against terrorists. Unless that report was filed,
all further research on the project would have to stop
immediately. But President Bush could keep the research
alive by certifying to Congress that a halt "would endanger
the national security of the United States."     (021)

Senator Wyden's curb on the program slid through the Senate
with no overt opposition, and among the House-Senate
negotiators it has found no vocal opposition, either,
making it an almost incidental decision in a conference
fighting over billions of dollars for thousands of
programs.     (022)

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on
the Judiciary Committee, said today, "If there is one thing
that should unite everybody, from the very conservative
member to the very liberal member, it is a concern that our
own government should not spy on law-abiding citizens."     (023)

Publicly, most of the criticism of Total Information
Awareness has come from Democrats. Except for Senator
Grassley, Republicans have been silent in public, unwilling
to attack a project of a Republican administration. But as
Senator Wyden noted today, no one from either party has
been ready to speak up in its favor.    (024)

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/12/politics/12PRIV.html?ex=1046059545&ei=1&en=cba1b62e8ab918d0    (025)

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