ACLU Calls FBI Involvement in Total Information Awareness Privacy Disaster Waiting to Happen

January 22, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Responding to reports today that the Federal Bureau of Investigation hopes to experiment with the controversial cyber-surveillance program known as Total Information Awareness, the American Civil Liberties Union said that such a partnership between the military and law enforcement would be a privacy disaster waiting to happen.

“With the FBI on board, Total Information Awareness will be able to implement its e-voyeurism on a much grander – and more intrusive — scale,” said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “This undermines the wall between the military and domestic law enforcement, which in the past has resulted in real Americans getting hurt.”

The ACLU’s remarks come on the heels of reports that the Defense Department’s Inspector General admitted in preliminary responses to questions from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) that the FBI was working on a memorandum of understanding with the Pentagon “for possible experimentation” with the Total Information Awareness program.

Yesterday, Grassley sent a separate letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft demanding further information about the program. In it, Sen. Grassley accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of being “less than forthright” in their lack of disclosures about possible law enforcement involvement in Total Information Awareness. Total Information Awareness had been billed as a military project designed to gather intelligence about Americans without prior suspicion of criminal activity. To transplant such an approach into traditional law enforcement would be an utter disaster for privacy rights and civil liberties, the ACLU said.

Sen. Grassley’s remarks today echoed concerns expressed last week by Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI), John Corzine (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), all of whom support legislation that would put a hold on the development of Total Information Awareness.

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