(NY Times, registration required) Conferees in Congress Bar Using a Pentagon Project on Americans: ...... House leaders agreed with Senate fears about the threat to personal privacy in the Pentagon program, known as Total Information Awareness. So they accepted a Senate provision in the omnibus spending bill passed last month, said Representative Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who heads the defense appropriations subcommittee. Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, said of the program, "Jerry's against it, and I'm against it, so we kept the Senate amendment." Of the Pentagon, he said, "They've got some crazy people over there."
Nice that Congress has actually deigned to notice that. Unfortunately, accepting the Wyden amendment is a very small step, and means that Congress' recent streak of political cowardice remains intact.
..... The negotiators did agree to extend from 60 to 90 days the time the Defense Department would have to provide a detailed report to Congress, including its costs, goals, impact on privacy and civil liberties and prospects for successes against terrorists. Unless that report was filed, all further research on the project would have to stop immediately. But President Bush could keep the research alive by certifying to Congress that a halt "would endanger the national security of the United States."
Does anyone think that the president will not send that letter perhaps ten seconds after the omnibus budget reconciliation act is passed? Anyone? ... Yeah, that's pretty much what any sane person would think. And the administration can completely gut the amendment by simply transferring TIA out of the Pentagon (and away from Poindexter -- really, what on EARTH were they thinking?) into Homeland Security, where it would logically belong anyway.
And, to be sure, the Wyden amendment, even with the letter, only allows research, and not the use of TIA against Americans.
Assuming that the project comes into existence, anyone think that the Pentagon or Justice or Homeland Security or any department where the project winds up will be in the least deterred by laws saying, "Don't use it against Americans!" Anyone? .... anyone?Posted by iain at February 12, 2003 11:13 AM