ACLU Highlights Real-Life Threat of Pentagon Super-Snoop Program to Average Americans

February 5, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today warned against the likely ineffectiveness of and danger to average Americans posed by the vast cyber-surveillance system known as Total Information Awareness.

“”The Pentagon’s plan for the most extensive data surveillance network in history will have real effects on real Americans,”” Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, told a nationwide teleconference with reporters and editors. “”It will place millions of innocent Americans under government scrutiny in an epidemic of privacy invasions.””

Today’s news conference featured Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), sponsor of an amendment limiting Total Information Awareness, and Barbara Simons, head of the Association for Computing Machinery’s policy wing and a critic of the technical ideas underpinning the Pentagon’s program.

Representatives of a broad, right- and left-leaning coalition, which includes the ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Eagle Forum, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Free Congress Foundation and People for the American Way, were on hand to answer questions.

Much of the briefing focused on the practical dangers inherent in Total Information Awareness for average Americans and how the system will erode the ability of communities across the country to maintain control over their personal information.

In Washington, concern has been mounting in the past weeks. Late last month, the Senate unanimously agreed to legislation offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), which was a crucial first step in protecting civil liberties and privacy in America. The Wyden Amendment must pass through conference committee intact to become law.

Total Information Awareness developers, led by former Reagan National Security Adviser John Poindexter, intend to create the infrastructure to allow the government to use “”data-mining”” technology to track and monitor, among many other things, innocent Americans’ financial, health, travel and credit card records. The program has been billed as an anti-terrorism tool; however, many technical experts question its viability and civil liberties and privacy advocates oppose the system for its potentially disastrous effects on core freedoms.

You can listen to the teleconference in RealAudio format at:
http://stream.realimpact.net/rihurl.ram?file=realimpact/cms/aclun_20030205.rm

The coalition’s letter on Total Information Awareness can be found at:
/node/21262

The ACLU Special Feature on Total Information Awareness can be found at:
/Privacy/Privacylist.cfm?c=130

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