Total Information Awareness & Beyond: Threats to Privacy in a Post 9-11 America

Press release: July 26, 2004: For Immediate Release

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
241 King St., Suite 216
Northampton, MA 01060

Total Information Awareness & Beyond: Threats to Privacy in a Post 9-11 America

July 26, 2004, Northampton, MA: It would be hard to forget the dramatic public denunciation of John Poindexter’s Total/Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) project last year. Congress gave into citizen pressure and voted to defund the controversial plan to build a centralized database of private transactional data on all Americans. However, neither TIA nor data mining have left the government’s counterterrorism toolbox.

A new paper by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (* details fourteen government data surveillance programs that are going on right now, including TIA itself. The paper explains how these programs endanger Fourth Amendment and privacy rights and suggests that new laws and regulations are needed to adequately protect citizen privacy.

More concerning than what is in the report, however, is what is left out. Author of the paper, Shannon Anderson, remarks, “The most troubling aspect of these data surveillance systems is their lack of government transparency. Government agencies change program names, hide their budgets in discretionary funding, and mislead the public about their status. When you have Tom Ridge driving a stake through the heart of CAPPS II one day and DHS officials saying the program is still alive the next, what are citizens supposed to believe?”

Anderson also notes that, “Unfortunately, data surveillance is a just a slice in the pie of post 9-11 privacy infringements.” (See Graphic below)** Since the terrorist attacks, the FBI has relaxed its guidelines for infiltrating political and religious groups. Moreover, because of USA PATRIOT Act sections 216 and 217, investigators have greater authority to monitor e-mail and internet use. These provisions have encouraged the FBI to further implement its Carnivore Internet Communications System, which the agency renamed DCS 1000 after public abhorrence to the name “Carnivore.”

Equally concerning is the decrease in privacy for attorney-client communications. An October 2001 Bureau of Prisons order allows federal agents to monitor conversations between lawyers and their clients held in federal custody, and the agents do not need to notify the client and attorney if a court authorizes the monitoring.

The federal government is not alone in its attack on privacy. Local governments have also implemented measures that infringe on privacy, such as large-scale video surveillance.

Taken in totality, these government projects paint a harrowing picture of post 9-11 privacy. Especially during this election season, the BORDC encourages citizens to ask their elected officials two big questions: Are these technology systems and counterterrorism measures making us safer? And even if they are, is the cost to our privacy and civil rights worth it?

*The Bill of Rights Defense Committee ( a national nonprofit organization that encourages communities to take an active role in an ongoing national debate about the USA PATRIOT Act and other antiterrorism measures that threaten civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.


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