Recent media reports have revealed that a little-known Defense Department office is developing a computer system called ""Total Information Awareness"" that threatens to turn us all into "suspects" without proof of criminal wrongdoing. 

The system, which includes an advanced form of ""data-mining,"" would effectively provide government officials with immediate access to our personal information such as all of our communications (phone calls, emails and web searches), financial records, purchases, prescriptions, school records, medical records and travel history. Under this program, our entire lives would be catalogued and available to government officials. 

More about the Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness" Program (will open in new window)

As an important first step to halting this dangerous program, Congress approved legislation that included an amendment offered by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that would freeze development of the program for 90 days, during which time it mandates that the Pentagon prepare a report to Congress on the viability, cost and impact to civil liberties and privacy of the system. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary fix.  Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) has introduced new legislation called ""The Data-Mining Moratorium Act"" (S. 188). The bill would impose a moratorium on data-mining under the Total Information Awareness program of the Department of Defense and any similar program of the Department of Homeland Security until Congress authorizes such activity.  It also requires a report to Congress on TIA and other data mining activities.  Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is expected to introduced similar legislation in the house.

While the proponents of Total Information Awareness have argued that such snooping should be accepted as part of the "War on Terrorism," it is clear that this proposal goes too far. While running for the presidency, George W. Bush said that he wanted to defend individual privacy.  Yet the Defense Department program makes a mockery of such privacy protections and threatens to bulldoze the judicial and Congressional restraints that have protected the public against domestic spying.

Urge your Senators to Support and Cosponsor the Data-Mining Moratorium Act!

 Law-abiding people should be protected from government snooping.  
A hallmark of American democracy has long been that our individual privacy is protected against government intervention and snooping as long as we are not guilty of wrongdoing.  This new system would obliterate these protections -- the government would simply collect data on everyone. Doing so would make us all suspects and in effect eliminate our personal privacy.

 In searching for terrorists, we must not investigate everyone.  
It has been suggested that searching for terrorists in our midst is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  If this is true, then it certainly makes no sense to make the haystack even bigger by creating the means to investigate hundreds of millions of law-abiding Americans rather than focusing in on real suspects.

 Congress must step in and ask tough questions about this program.
Congress must not allow the Defense Department to develop unilaterally a surveillance tool that would invade the privacy of innocent people inside the United States. At a time when Americans are calling for more privacy of personal information, this program would provide a back door to databases of private information.  At a minimum, Congress must put Total Information Awareness on hold and investigate the far-reaching consequences of developing vast domestic surveillance systems.



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