CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION  &  GOVERNMENT
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

 

CLT UPDATE
Sunday, November 17, 2002

"Every breath you take, every move you make...
I'll be watching you."

"Every Breath You Take," by The Police (1995)

Feds plan massive database to track all citizens


Voting 299 for and 121 against, the House on Nov. 13 approved the conference report on a bill (HR 5710) creating a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) composed of 170,000 civil servants and all or part of 22 existing agencies.

Roll Call Report Syndicate


If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:

Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance and you have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.

This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks....

The Latin motto over Poindexter"s new Pentagon office reads "Scientia Est Potentia" "knowledge is power."

The New York Times
Nov. 14, 2002
You Are a Suspect
By William Safire


"This could be the perfect storm for civil liberties in America," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington "The vehicle is the Homeland Security Act, the technology is Darpa and the agency is the F.B.I. The outcome is a system of national surveillance of the American public." ...

"A lot of my colleagues are uncomfortable about this and worry about the potential uses that this technology might be put, if not by this administration then by a future one," said Barbara Simon, a computer scientist who is past president of the Association of Computing Machinery. "Once you've got it in place you can't control it." ...

If deployed, civil libertarians argue, the computer system would rapidly bring a surveillance state.

The New York Times
Nov. 9, 2002
Pentagon plans a computer system that would
peek at personal data of Americans


The system proposed by Poindexter and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at about $200 million a year, would be able to sweep up and analyze data in a much more systematic way. It would provide a more detailed look at data than the super-secret National Security Agency now has, the former Navy admiral said....

Paul Werbos, a computing and artificial-intelligence specialist at the National Science Foundation, doubted whether such "appliances" can be calibrated to adequately filter out details about innocent people that should not be in the hands of the government. "By definition, they're going to send highly sensitive, private personal data," he said. "How many innocent people are going to get falsely pinged? How many terrorists are going to slip through?"

Former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a member of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, said there's no question about the need to use data more effectively. But he criticized the scope of Poindexter's program, saying it is "total overkill of intelligence" and a potentially "huge waste of money."

"There's an Orwellian concept if I've ever heard one," Hart said when told about the program.

Poindexter said any operational system would include safeguards to govern the collection of information....

The office already has an emblem that features a variation of the great seal of the United States: An eye looms over a pyramid and appears to scan the world. The motto reads: Scientia Est Potentia, or "knowledge is power."

The Washington Post
Nov. 12, 2002 
U.S. hopes to check computers globally...


"Each time we give up a bit of information about ourselves to the Government, we give up some of our freedom.

"Privacy, like many of the other attributes of freedom, can be easiest appreciated when it no longer exists. A complacent citizenry only becomes outraged about its loss of integrity and individuality when the aggrandizement of power in the Government becomes excessive. By then it may be too late."

U.S. Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr.
Introducing The Criminal Justice
Information Control and Protection of Privacy Act
February 5, 1974


[Excerpt from]  High Tech and the Age of Intrusion
By Chip Ford İ 1992-95


"Subtler and more far-reaching means of invading privacy have become available to the government ... The progress of science in furnishing the government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wire-tapping ... "Discovery and invention have made it possible for the government, by means far more effective than stretching upon the rack, to obtain disclosure in court of what is whispered in the closet ...

"Ways may some day be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home...

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis
Olmstead v. United States - 1928

[Excerpt from]  High Tech and the Age of Intrusion
By Chip Ford İ 1992-95


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

Only yesterday I became aware of the most frightening government plan I've ever heard of to date, and from all places, Jim Braude's WTKK-FM 96.9 Saturday morning radio program. Jim's starting to sound more like Jerry Williams by the day!

I've been warning of the advent of a national I.D. card for a decade now, and it's still creeping up on us: the latest ploy to impose it is in the form of state drivers' licenses linked to a national database.

Well it looks like Big Brother is moving faster than we can keep up with, because an even more insidious and threatening attack is stealthily contained in President George W. Bush's "Homeland Security Act," which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives a few days ago and is now before the U.S. Senate.

The shadowy mastermind of this assault on what's left of our freedom is disgraced Admiral John Poindexter, also the mastermind behind the Iran-Contra fiasco under President Ronald Reagan. Did anyone know that this creature was back behind the curtain, lurking like the Wizard of Oz, at the controls of federal government deceptions?

There's little more that I can add to what I wrote in "High Tech and the Age of Intrusion" back in 1992 -- except that if this isn't halted in its tracks RIGHT NOW then it's all over for any expectation or hope for the privacy of any American citizen ever again.

For more information on the DARPA Information Awareness Office's frightening mission, click here - "A picture's worth a thousand words" and its chilling logo says it all.

Oh sure, and there's that false promise from him again, that "any operational system would include safeguards to govern the collection of information."

Right, and I want to buy both that swamp and the bridge Poindexter's offering for sale too! I know and recognize history, and I recognize this latest Big Lie for what it is: The latest in a long and ugly track record of incrementally broken promises starting in 1935 with the Social Security Act.

The following is a sample passage from "High Tech and the Age of Intrusion." Have we learned nothing about government promises of privacy -- or anything else -- over the decades?

Intense congressional debate occurred over the proposed Social Security Act out of a fear that mandatory enumeration of individual Americans would lead to a national identification program, internal identification papers, and abuses such as those then arising in totalitarian states such as Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's USSR. Proponents and legislators allayed those fears by promising that Social Security Numbers (SSNs) would never be used except for the sole purpose of providing a national record-keeping system for the retirement, survivors, and disability income insurance program then under consideration.

That was the first promise.

The Social Security Act was passed in 1935, and became effective on January 1, 1937. With the stroke of his pen, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a precedent which set the United States on a road of diminishing privacy on a subtle, pervasive scale never before experienced in the history of mankind. Sixty years later its impact and, more importantly, its potential remains beyond our full appreciation or comprehension.

The 1935 assurance of confidentiality and single-purpose necessary for congressional acceptance was breached a little at a time, and always with expressed good intentions. This system of enumeration nurtured a steady expansion in use of SSNs as individual identifiers for purposes both governmental and private. The cumulative result has been an ever-widening and readily available volume of confidential personal documentation -- often of questionable accuracy -- on virtually every citizen in the country.

Since 1970, Congress has incrementally expanded the use of and requirement for SSNs, such as the replacement of military service serial numbers by SSNs. Today's increasing public acceptance of SSNs as a de-facto national identification number is evident, and excesses brought on by a broken congressional promise are manifest.

Chip Ford


The New York Times
Thursday, November 14, 2002

You Are a Suspect
By William Safire

WASHINGTON - If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:

Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance and you have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.

This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks.

Remember Poindexter? Brilliant man, first in his class at the Naval Academy, later earned a doctorate in physics, rose to national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan. He had this brilliant idea of secretly selling missiles to Iran to pay ransom for hostages, and with the illicit proceeds to illegally support contras in Nicaragua.

A jury convicted Poindexter in 1990 on five felony counts of misleading Congress and making false statements, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because Congress had given him immunity for his testimony. He famously asserted, "The buck stops here," arguing that the White House staff, and not the president, was responsible for fateful decisions that might prove embarrassing.

This ring-knocking master of deceit is back again with a plan even more scandalous than Iran-contra. He heads the "Information Awareness Office" in the otherwise excellent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which spawned the Internet and stealth aircraft technology. Poindexter is now realizing his 20-year dream: getting the "data-mining" power to snoop on every public and private act of every American.

Even the hastily passed U.S.A. Patriot Act, which widened the scope of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and weakened 15 privacy laws, raised requirements for the government to report secret eavesdropping to Congress and the courts. But Poindexter's assault on individual privacy rides roughshod over such oversight.

He is determined to break down the wall between commercial snooping and secret government intrusion. The disgraced admiral dismisses such necessary differentiation as bureaucratic "stovepiping." And he has been given a $200 million budget to create computer dossiers on 300 million Americans.

When George W. Bush was running for president, he stood foursquare in defense of each person's medical, financial and communications privacy. But Poindexter, whose contempt for the restraints of oversight drew the Reagan administration into its most serious blunder, is still operating on the presumption that on such a sweeping theft of privacy rights, the buck ends with him and not with the president.

This time, however, he has been seizing power in the open. In the past week John Markoff of The Times, followed by Robert O'Harrow of The Washington Post, have revealed the extent of Poindexter's operation, but editorialists have not grasped its undermining of the Freedom of Information Act.

Political awareness can overcome "Total Information Awareness," the combined force of commercial and government snooping. In a similar overreach, Attorney General Ashcroft tried his Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), but public outrage at the use of gossips and postal workers as snoops caused the House to shoot it down. The Senate should now do the same to this other exploitation of fear.

The Latin motto over Poindexter"s new Pentagon office reads "Scientia Est Potentia" "knowledge is power." Exactly: the government's infinite knowledge about you is its power over you. "We're just as concerned as the next person with protecting privacy," this brilliant mind blandly assured The Post. A jury found he spoke falsely before.

To read a 1998 column on privacy and increasing government intrusion
by William Safire, "Nobody's Business,"

click here

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The New York Times
Saturday, November 9, 2002

Pentagon plans a computer system that would
peek at personal data of Americans

By John Markoff

The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe -- including the United States.

As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.

Historically, military and intelligence agencies have not been permitted to spy on Americans without extraordinary legal authorization. But Admiral Poindexter, the former national security adviser in the Reagan administration, has argued that the government needs broad new powers to process, store and mine billions of minute details of electronic life in the United States.

Admiral Poindexter, who has described the plan in public documents and speeches but declined to be interviewed, has said that the government needs to "break down the stovepipes" that separate commercial and government databases, allowing teams of intelligence agency analysts to hunt for hidden patterns of activity with powerful computers.

"We must become much more efficient and more clever in the ways we find new sources of data, mine information from the new and old, generate information, make it available for analysis, convert it to knowledge, and create actionable options," he said in a speech in California earlier this year.

Admiral Poindexter quietly returned to the government in January to take charge of the Office of Information Awareness at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as Darpa. The office is responsible for developing new surveillance technologies in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In order to deploy such a system, known as Total Information Awareness, new legislation would be needed, some of which has been proposed by the Bush administration in the Homeland Security Act that is now before Congress. That legislation would amend the Privacy Act of 1974, which was intended to limit what government agencies could do with private information.

The possibility that the system might be deployed domestically to let intelligence officials look into commercial transactions worries civil liberties proponents.

"This could be the perfect storm for civil liberties in America," said Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington "The vehicle is the Homeland Security Act, the technology is Darpa and the agency is the F.B.I. The outcome is a system of national surveillance of the American public."

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has been briefed on the project by Admiral Poindexter and the two had a lunch to discuss it, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

"As part of our development process, we hope to coordinate with a variety of organizations, to include the law enforcement community," a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

An F.B.I. official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said the bureau had had preliminary discussions with the Pentagon about the project but that no final decision had been made about what information the F.B.I. might add to the system.

A spokesman for the White House Office of Homeland Security, Gordon Johndroe, said officials in the office were not familiar with the computer project and he declined to discuss concerns raised by the project's critics without knowing more about it.

He referred all questions to the Defense Department, where officials said they could not address civil liberties concerns because they too were not familiar enough with the project.

Some members of a panel of computer scientists and policy experts who were asked by the Pentagon to review the privacy implications this summer said terrorists might find ways to avoid detection and that the system might be easily abused.

"A lot of my colleagues are uncomfortable about this and worry about the potential uses that this technology might be put, if not by this administration then by a future one," said Barbara Simon, a computer scientist who is past president of the Association of Computing Machinery. "Once you've got it in place you can't control it."

Other technology policy experts dispute that assessment and support Admiral Poindexter's position that linking of databases is necessary to track potential enemies operating inside the United States.

"They're conceptualizing the problem in the way we've suggested it needs to be understood," said Philip Zelikow, a historian who is executive director of the Markle Foundation task force on National Security in the Information Age. "They have a pretty good vision of the need to make the tradeoffs in favor of more sharing and openness."

On Wednesday morning, the panel reported its findings to Dr. Tony Tether, the director of the defense research agency, urging development of technologies to protect privacy as well as surveillance, according to several people who attended the meeting.

If deployed, civil libertarians argue, the computer system would rapidly bring a surveillance state. They assert that potential terrorists would soon learn how to avoid detection in any case.

The new system will rely on a set of computer-based pattern recognition techniques known as "data mining," a set of statistical techniques used by scientists as well as by marketers searching for potential customers.

The system would permit 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 efficiently, all from their individual computers.

The project calls for the development of a prototype based on test data that would be deployed at the Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, Va. Officials would not say when the system would be put into operation.

The system is one of a number of projects now under way inside the government to lash together both commercial and government data to hunt for patterns of terrorist activities.

"What we are doing is developing technologies and a prototype system to revolutionize the ability of the United States to detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists, and decipher their plans, and thereby enable the U.S. to take timely action to successfully pre-empt and defeat terrorist acts," said Jan Walker, the spokeswoman for the defense research agency.

Before taking the position at the Pentagon, Admiral Poindexter, who was convicted in 1990 for his role in the Iran-contra affair, had worked as a contractor on one of the projects he now controls. Admiral Poindexter's conviction was reversed in 1991 by a federal appeals court because he had been granted immunity for his testimony before Congress about the case.

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The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 12, 2002

U.S. hopes to check computers globally
system would be used to hunt terrorists

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Staff Writer

A new Pentagon research office has started designing a global computer-surveillance system to give U.S. counterterrorism officials access to personal information in government and commercial databases around the world. The Information Awareness Office, run by former national security adviser John M. Poindexter, aims to develop new technologies to sift through "ultra-large" data warehouses and networked computers in search of threatening patterns among everyday transactions, such as credit card purchases and travel reservations, according to interviews and documents.

Authorities already have access to a wealth of information about individual terrorists, but they typically have to obtain court approval in the United States or make laborious diplomatic and intelligence efforts overseas. The system proposed by Poindexter and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at about $200 million a year, would be able to sweep up and analyze data in a much more systematic way. It would provide a more detailed look at data than the super-secret National Security Agency now has, the former Navy admiral said.

"How are we going to find terrorists and preempt them, except by following their trail," said Poindexter, who brought the idea to the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now is beginning to award contracts to high-technology vendors.

"The problem is much more complex, I believe, than we've faced before," he said. "It's how do we harness with technology the street smarts of people on the ground, on a global scale."

Although formidable foreign policy and privacy hurdles remain before any prototype becomes operational, the initiative shows how far the government has come in its willingness to use information technology and expanded surveillance authorities in the war on terrorism.

Poindexter said it will take years to realize his vision, but the office has already begun providing some technology to government agencies. For example, Poindexter recently agreed to help the FBI build its data-warehousing system. He's also spoken to the Transportation Security Administration about aiding its development of a massive passenger-profiling system.

In his first interview since he started the "information awareness" program, Poindexter, who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal more than a decade ago, said the systems under development would, among other things, help analysts search randomly for indications of travel to risky areas, suspicious e-mails, odd fund transfers and improbable medical activity, such as the treatments of anthrax sores. Much of the data would be collected through computer "appliances" -- some mixture of hardware and software -- that would, with permission of governments and businesses, enable intelligence agencies to routinely extract information.

Some specialists question whether the technology Poindexter envisions is even feasible, given the immense amount of data it would handle. Others question whether it is diplomatically possible, given the sensitivities about privacy around the world. But many agree, if implemented as planned, it probably would be the largest data-surveillance system ever built.

Paul Werbos, a computing and artificial-intelligence specialist at the National Science Foundation, doubted whether such "appliances" can be calibrated to adequately filter out details about innocent people that should not be in the hands of the government. "By definition, they're going to send highly sensitive, private personal data," he said. "How many innocent people are going to get falsely pinged? How many terrorists are going to slip through?"

Former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a member of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, said there's no question about the need to use data more effectively. But he criticized the scope of Poindexter's program, saying it is "total overkill of intelligence" and a potentially "huge waste of money."

"There's an Orwellian concept if I've ever heard one," Hart said when told about the program.

Poindexter said any operational system would include safeguards to govern the collection of information. He said rules built into the software would identify users, create an audit trail and govern the information that is available. But he added that his mission is to develop the technology, not the policy. It would be up to Congress and policymakers to debate the issue and establish the limits that would make the system politically acceptable.

"We can develop the best technology in the world and unless there is public acceptance and understanding of the necessity, it will never be implemented," he said. "We're just as concerned as the next person with protecting privacy."

Getting the Defense Department job is something of a comeback for Poindexter. The Reagan administration national security adviser was convicted in 1990 of five felony counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents and obstructing congressional inquiries into the Iran-contra affair, which involved the secret sale of arms to Iran in the mid-1980s and diversion of profits to help the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Poindexter, a retired Navy rear admiral, was the highest-ranking Regan administration official found guilty in the scandal. He was sentenced to six months in jail by a federal judge who called him "the decision-making head" of a scheme to deceive Congress. The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that conviction in 1991, saying Poindexter's rights had been violated through the use of testimony he had given to Congress after being granted immunity.

In recent years, he has worked as a DARPA contractor at Syntek Technologies Inc., an Arlington consulting firm that helped develop technology to search through large amounts of data. Poindexter now has a corner office at a DARPA facility in Arlington. He still wears cuff links with the White House seal and a large ring from the Naval Academy, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1958.

As Poindexter views the plan, counterterrorism officials will use "transformational" technology to sift through almost unimaginably large amounts of data, something Poindexter calls "noise," to find a discernable "signal" indicating terrorist activity or planning. In addition to gathering data, the tools he is trying to develop would give analysts a way to visually represent what that information means. The system also would include the technology to identify people at a distance, based on known details about their faces and gaits.

He cited the recent sniper case as an example of something that would have benefited from such technology. The suspects' car, a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, was repeatedly seen by police near the shooting scenes. Had investigators been able to know that, Poindexter said, they might have detained the suspects sooner.

The office already has several substantial contracts in the works with technology vendors. They include Hicks & Associates Inc., a national security consultant in McLean; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a management and technology consultant in McLean; and Ratheon Corp., a technology company that will provide search and data-mining tools. "Poindexter made the argument to the right players, so they asked him back into the government," said Mike McConnell, a vice president at Booz Allen and former director of the NSA.

The office already has an emblem that features a variation of the great seal of the United States: An eye looms over a pyramid and appears to scan the world. The motto reads: Scientia Est Potentia, or "knowledge is power."

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