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Keeping An Eye On Total Information Awareness 434

mesozoic writes "Wired is running a story about hackers publishing John Poindexter's personal information (like satellite photos of his home) to protest the proposed Total Information Awareness system. This is just too funny, and it may even raise a few more eyebrows among the national media."
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Keeping An Eye On Total Information Awareness

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  • by Alan Partridge ( 516639 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:01AM (#4897980) Journal
    TIA only serves to demonstrate the supreme arrogance of the US govt - quick! search the big database for "white van"
  • PARTY! (Score:4, Funny)

    by RobertTaylor ( 444958 ) <roberttaylor1234&gmail,com> on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:03AM (#4897989) Homepage Journal
    Poindexter could not be reached for comment for this story, and calls to his home phone now reach a recording: "The party you are calling is not available at this time."

    boo hoo... and I wasnt invited :(
  • This system is designed to track present and future criminals. John Poindexter hasn't broken any laws, nor is he likely to whereas the general public obviously breaks laws all the time.

    It's called "risk management".

    • by Karamchand ( 607798 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:09AM (#4898021)
      Noone here said he has broken any laws (which, as far as I know, is not as clear though). But I haven't either - still my record is/will be searched and is/will be available for many people who I don't like to have my records.

      So why not make Poindexter's records available too?
    • Short memory? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:10AM (#4898032) Journal
      John Poindexter hasn't broken any laws

      Sure [] he has [], he just can't be tried and convicted for his criminal acts because Congress handed him immunity.
    • What qualifies "future criminals"? I mean if you know they're going to be criminals soon... why not just go out and get 'em.

      And remember, shoot first, ask later!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You have got to be kidding!

      In you or I were in anything like his
      shoes, we would be rotting in Levenworth.

      Go read your history son.
    • by hughk ( 248126 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:25AM (#4898126) Journal
      Last I heard, he was directly implicated in the supply of weapons to terrorists. Ok, he got immunity from a friendly regime, but Poindexter broke laws that any other person would spend a long time in prison for.
    • by Kibo ( 256105 ) <naw#gmail@com> on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:48AM (#4898212) Homepage
      Risk implies trust. If our government doesn't trust us, can we trust it? If we do, how much freedom are we risking, and for what?

      I think those are significant questions that should be answered, probably in exhaustive detail. But appearently questioning the people who answer to you is offically unamerican (if the insipid talking heads are to be believed). It's vaguely reminiscent of that old McCarthy news reel footage in a way. Which is why I'm not worried. How'd that end up? McCarthy is an american villain, poor ol' J Edgar a joke, MLK a canonized hero Ali a living legend. When the executive branch has detailed records of Justice Thomas's prefered Long Dong Silver rentals, who's knows what kind of civil liberties crusader he'll turn into. He may even regain his powers of speech.

      Among other things, Poindexter violated his officers loyalty oath, and helped make it possible for Osama to get some of those Stinger missles. Hardly a saint. He and Ollie, by all rights, should be fighting wild dogs for scraps of meat in urine soaked alleys, but not enough oral sex was involved to warrent much investigation.
    • by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:00PM (#4899278) Journal
      John Poindexter broke many laws, as head of the NSC during the Reagan administration. Does the "Iran Contra scandal" ring a bell? He was tried, and convicted for lying to Congress, although the conviction was later overturned on the grounds that he was granted immunity.

    • John Poindexter has broken laws that we're currently subjecting people to military tribunals for breaking.

      And the database doesn't track criminals, it tracks everyone, on the premise that any of them *might* become criminals. You, me, anyone.

      Of course, the next logical step is if you know that you want to lock someone up, you study their record, and find a law you can use against them. If one doesn't exist, you make one. It's very convenient.
  • Will this help? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Helmholtz Coil ( 581131 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:04AM (#4898000) Journal

    It could provide him and his supporters with some evidence as to why they need such a system. Something along the lines of "hackers" (to be written as "terrorists" in the PowerPoint presentation) being able to find high-ranking DoD personnel even at home, only goes to prove we need to keep tabs on everyone.

    I'm not a fan of the proposed system either, but this kind of protest might do exactly the opposite of what they intended it for.
    • Re:Will this help? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RyoSaeba ( 627522 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:18AM (#4898085) Journal
      In that case, everyone involved in the phone listing, record keeping, and such, is a criminal. As pointed out in the article, the reporter mainly collected publicy available data.... I don't see how he can possibly be tagged as criminal for that...
      TIA would even be worse, since it'd collect non-public data as well.
      • In that case, everyone involved in the phone listing, record keeping, and such, is a criminal. As pointed out in the article, the reporter mainly collected publicy available data.... I don't see how he can possibly be tagged as criminal for that...

        Not "criminal". Criminals are booked and go to jail, or at least are booked. The problem is "terrorists" and "potential criminals", who don't do anything illegal up until they committ an act which harms a good many relatively innocent people.

        A legal act with a high probability of causing harm to others is a legal act that needs to be watched. If you buy a gun, the government needs to know who you are and you need to produce the gun when the police ask you where it is. If you drive a car, the government needs to know that you know how to drive a car & that you drive that car (relatively) safetly.

        Whether or not gathering public data about someone in an easy-to-find place is a dangerous act is something altogether different. If it is, then safeguards should be in place either against it or to watch those that do it. If it isn't--well, then the feds can find something better to do with their taxpayer-funded time.
        • Re:Will this help? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:22AM (#4898711) Journal

          Not to pick nits with your evidenciary dilemma, but:

          The problem is "terrorists" and "potential criminals", who don't do anything illegal up until they committ an act which harms a good many relatively innocent people.

          Technically, that's not true. If they plan to commit an act of terrorism, they're guilty of conspiracy, whether or not the actual action is carried out.

      • That's a good point, but I guess what I was thinking was that Poindexter could raise the point that if it's really that easy that anyone can do it, that TIA is required so that the powers that be know when they're doing it and what they're collecting. Theoretically, "they" should be the terrorists, but seeing as we don't always know who the terrorists are before they do anything, "they" really means "everybody" in TIA.

        So the argument he could use then would be that terrorists could be using a similar approach, and point to this reporter's efforts as proof of its feasibility.
    • Re:Will this help? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mshiltonj ( 220311 ) <mshiltonj@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:09AM (#4898357) Homepage Journal
      "If you need a police state to enforce your laws, then your laws are wrong."

      -- dunno where I read that.
  • All I can say is, awesome Simply awesome. :) Of course, this could lead to new restrictions on who can access aerial photos, etc.
    • All we need now is some guys with remote control airplanes with TV cameras on board posting streaming video on the web.

      The Admiral Poindexter Aerial Webcam

  • Don't stop at Poindexter, We should setup a TIA-like program for all 'bad' politicians. I think we should do Ashcroft next, maybe a few of his sheeplings.
    I want every little peice of information, right down to what toppings he orders on his pizza. Dont stop until they realise how wrong what theyre doing is.
    I'd even be willing to offer some server space for a more elaborate project like this.
  • by tangledweb ( 134818 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:10AM (#4898034)
    I don't think people are really trying.

    I do not want publically available information like his phone number and house construction materials. I want real data, of the type the government is trying to conglomerate. Satellite photos Bah! What's next, a map?

    Print me a list of his credit card transactions, the itineries from his plane journeys and his bank balance and I will be impressed.
  • a neat idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tolan-b ( 230077 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:11AM (#4898038)
    and one that illustrates the point excellently.
    it's particularly encouraging that the press don't seem to be universally attacking the stunts as well.

    it staggers me that people don't immediately start shouting "1984!!" when this sort of thing is suggested. im also a bit disappointed that clinton is a supporter, i thought he was a bit more libertarian than that :/
    • Misread (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:33AM (#4898154)
      You have that wrong. Clinton is not a "libertarian", he is a libertine. Big difference.
  • This shit sucks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What about the former criminal who's done his/her time and gone straight? Will they be marked for life because of some absurd TIA system? Will they have to wear a big C on their chest?

    Sounds familar? This country is going down the toliet faster then my last bowel movement. It makes me sick.
    • As far as I know, a former criminal IS marked for life already. What? Never heard of criminal records? Any background check performed will bring up such things.
    • Re:This shit sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:07AM (#4898604)
      What about the former criminal who's done his/her time and gone straight? Will they be marked for life because of some absurd TIA system? Will they have to wear a big C on their chest?

      Well, Poindexter doesn't seem to have been disadvantaged by his criminal past.

    • Well, considering that the man in charge of this project IS a criminal who got off on a retarded technicality and served no time whatsoever. For selling weapons and lying to congress about it, no less. His past actions show that he considers himself above the law, is that really that the sort person that we would want in connected with a database like this in any way, shape or form?
  • by Fuzzypig ( 631915 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:23AM (#4898117) good for gander. Nice little article, I really hope this little skit achieves what it sets out to do and doesn't end up off course, as so many of these good intentions do.
  • by rickthewizkid ( 536429 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:24AM (#4898124)
    Here's something interesting ---

    I wonder what will happen in schools in a few years? When we were all kids growing up, we were taught that we were the greatest nation because we had certain freedoms, that the government had limited power over watching us etc, instead of places like soviet Russia (where the CD players listen to YOU--- woops, wrong post) that watch and control their citizens.

    What is probably going to happen is that kids in schools today will be taught (slowly as not to draw attention to it) that it is good and proper for the government to watch its citizens, that there is no such thing as a "right to privacy" etc... and kids being kids will dismiss our ideas of personal liberty, privacy, etc as old fasioned - or worse, that they see mommy or daddy using PGP or linux, or planting a tree in front of the security camera in their house, and thinking that mommy or daddy must be terrorists...

    Just my 2 cents' worth...
    • Perhaps not so slowly.
      My kids are continually getting lectures on what proper citizens do; this of course bears very little resemblance to what they see at home. My first inkling of how bad it was getting was when my daughter, who I've taken shooting before, asked why it was OK for us to have guns when her teachers all say they are bad.
      • Simpletons... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jolshefsky ( 560014 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:26AM (#4898465) Homepage
        paganizer wrote:
        ... my daughter ... asked why it was OK for us to have guns when her teachers all say they are bad.
        So you calmly explained that her teachers are simpletons and don't understand the basics of philosophy. It is impossible to assign a particular morality to an inanimate object, or even to a person--only to peoples actions and at that, really only to individual actions.

        Lets say someone kills someone else with a gun. The act of killing can be judged based on many factors (although it is my opinion that it's easier to prove that any killing is in some way bad rather than that any killing is in some way good.) The act of being killed can also be judged, but only weakly ... what if the person killed ran in front of an operating machine gun?

        But the gun ... no, the gun is neither good nor bad.

        The sarcastic asshole liberal would also like to add, "I'm sure this is what you explained."

      • her teachers all say they are bad.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:27AM (#4898138)
    Trying to change John Poiedexters mind is useless. But you CAN cut off the money to his idea so it can't take shape.

    For the TIA to happen, there has to be money.

    That money has to come from taxpayers, allocated by congress, then some government contractor has to take that money.

    Give the TIA treatment to:

    1) Congresspeople and their top staffers. Congress members who are in favor of this idea get the TIA treatment. Russ Feingold should have nothing to worry about, as he was the only one with a backbone WRT the PATROIT act.

    2) The CEO's, lead techs and board of directors of the contractors who TAKE the "dirty money" should also get the TIA treatment.

    You could start off with pictures, telephone numbers, tax info...that is low-hanging fruit. Add in any court cases they have been involved with.
  • by WillRobinson ( 159226 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:28AM (#4898143) Journal
    I agree, this is so Orwellian. Wasting a unholy ammount of money, to filter a few bad people. Give them another black hole to filter money to politicans, ya thats the ticket.

    I sometimes think, that our goverment has opened the doors to the world, not for cheep labor, not because of humanity, but to delute the mass of people who have voices and care about where they live. That gives them a agenda, a reason to clatter the sabers, and let you know how they are going to spend BILLIONS in finding the bad guys they let in. Oh ya, and help their buddies become rich. Why should they care, work two years, and get full pay for life.

    I suggest you talk to your VOTING friends, parents, and anybody who will lend a ear, that this is a BAD thing. Its hit the papers here in Dallas, so it makes a nice conversation topic. Actually it helps having a known criminal working on it. Makes the whole administration look bad for supporting the idea.

  • An Impossible Dream (Score:3, Informative)

    by leek ( 579908 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:36AM (#4898170)
  • Gilmore's tone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:39AM (#4898182)
    I'm generally sympathetic to what Gilmore is trying to say, but why does he have to write in such a sophomoric fashion (e.g. calling Poindexter a ratfink. Who calls anyone a ratfink anymore?)

    Using such playground language only serves to paint Gilmore as some juvenile lefty-crank. Gilmore's article would have greater impact if he chose to speak plainly and coolly in an adult voice.

    We know he's emotional about this issue, but take a few deep breaths, set the emotion aside, gather your thoughts and express them rationally and clearly. There are far too many of us on this side given to tantrums and rants.

    • It may be cheesy and sophomoric, but it works.

      He is a fuckin' ratfink. Actually, I think the word 'fink' needs to be broadly applied to all of America's current ruling aristocracy.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:43AM (#4898190) Journal
    One Bush voter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ...

    One of the problems of privacy advocates is that you can never get a reliable attributable quote from them.
  • Too Late (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:46AM (#4898202) Journal
    To be honest, It is way too late to stop this admin. The critical time was shortly after 9/11.There was enough of a scare about 9/11 and anthrax (which the admin did a number of lies on), that this admin has been able to remove the normal public oversight and religate it to the politicians. So everybody went for an impossible security from terrorist and have now set us up for terrorism from our own government. Keep in mind, that for a long time, admins. have hidden what goes on by keeping it out in the open and changing the verbage on it. I was into, supposedly, a bio. defense project at a university back in the early 80's. As time went on, we were instructed by the DoD to make changes to what and how we did. It became apparent over time, that we were not working on defense, but offense. Yet, it was out in the open and appeared defensive. BTW, that is the reason why the US has pushed the UN inspectors hard in Iraq to fully inspect the universities.
  • by Garry Anderson ( 194949 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:47AM (#4898207) Homepage
    Quote from DARPA []: "The goal of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program is 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 preempt and defeat terrorist acts."

    What a load of bull*. Why has NOBODY asked the Security Services the following? I have posted this argument several times before.

    Ask Security Services in the US, UK, Indonesia (Bali) or anywhere for that matter, to deny this:

    Internet surveillance, using Echelon, Carnivore or back doors in encryption, will not stop terrorists communicating by other means - most especially face to face or personal courier.

    Terrorists will have to do that, or they will be caught.

    Perhaps using mobile when absolutely essential, saying - "Meet you in the pub Monday" (human bomb to target A), or Tuesday (target B) or Sunday (abort).

    The Internet has become a tool for government to snoop on their people - 24/7.

    The terrorism argument is a dummy - total bull*.


    This propaganda is for several reasons, including: a) making you feel safer b) to say the government are doing something and c) the more malicious motive of privacy invasion.

    Government say about surveillance - "you've nothing to fear - if you are not breaking the law"

    This argument is made to pressure people into acquiescence - else appear guilty of hiding something illegal.

    It does not address the real reason why they want this information (which they will deny) - they want a surveillance society.

    They wish to invade your basic human right to privacy. This is like having somebody watching everything you do - all your personal thoughts, hopes and fears will be open to them.

    This is everything - including phone calls and interactive TV. Quote from ZDNET []: "Whether you're just accessing a Web site, placing a phone call, watching TV or developing a Web service, sometime in the not to distant future, virtually all such transactions will converge around Internet protocols."

    "Why should I worry? I do not care if they know what I do in my own home", you may foolishly say. Or, just as dumbly, "They will not be interested in anything I do".

    This information will be held about you until the authorities need it for anything at all. Like, for example, here in UK when government looked for dirt on individuals of Paddington crash survivors group. It was led by badly injured Pam Warren. She had over 20 operations after the 1999 rail crash (which killed 31 and injured many).

    This group had fought for better and safer railways - all by legal means. By all accounts a group of fine outstanding people - with good intent.

    So what was their crime, to deserve this investigation? It was just for showing up members of government to be the incompetents they were.

    As usual, government tried to put a different spin on the story when they were found out. Even so, their intent was obvious - they wanted to use this information as propaganda - to smear the character of these good people.

    Our honourable government would rather defile the character of its citizens, rather than address their reasonable concerns.

    The government arrogantly presume this group of citizens would not worry about having their privacy invaded.

    They can also check your outgoings match your income and that you are paying enough tax. What do you think all this privacy invasion is for? The War on Terrorism? You poor dupe. All your finances for them to scrutinize; heaven help you if you cannot account for every cent.

    The authorities try make everything they say sound perfectly reasonable.

    e.g. Officials from US Defence Department agency have said that they want, "the same level of accountability in cyberspace that we now have in the physical world".

    Do government currently keep records of everything that you touch in the physical world to analyse?

    No they do not - So then, is that the same level of accountability?

    They wish to keep an electronic tag on you, like some kind of animal. Actually it is even worse than this - like some pervert sex offender that they have to keep track of. Would any person of intelligence call that accountability?

    Do not believe the lies of Government - even more of your money spent on these measures will not protect us from terrorists. Every argument they use is subterfuge - pure spin.

    In UK, the RIP Act is unjust - dim-witted ill-informed MPs believed governments 'experts'. Remember - they will get everything about you, your phone calls, emails, TV viewing - everything.

    Americans - the Total Information Awareness plan, USA Patriot act and Homeland Defence - you are more technologically aware, are you really that easily led?

    I cannot stress enough - all your personal thoughts, hopes and fears will be open to them. I know from experience, as fact, they have no morals and will purposefully twist this information to use against you. I have documentary evidence of this - actual government agency case notes. Should government take legal action to deny that they pervert how personal information is used, then these documents may be viewed in a court of Law.

    P.S. The United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization and the United States Department of Commerce are hiding the simple solution to trademark and domain name problem. The solution was ratified by honest attorneys. Please visit my site [] - not associated with United Nations The United Nations WIPO deal with these conflicts - but are without honour and too cowardly to directly answer my easy questions (as are the US DoC).
  • Open up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ka9dgx ( 72702 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:49AM (#4898216) Homepage Journal
    I think that everyone (even felons) should be allowed to access their own information in this database, to ensure accuracy at a bare miniumum, and to see just what is captured. They should also have access to any and ALL queries that are done for their information. This could help people stop stalkers and other perverts misusing this database.

    There also needs to be an audit committee. Comprised of randomly selected registered voters.

    If they can't make it open and accountable, then no amount of rules can make it tollerable in a free society.


    • Re:Open up (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:58AM (#4898546) Homepage
      I don't think giving people access to their own files will really improve the situation. For starters if you can get access then there is a pretty big risk that some random criminal can pretend to be you and get your info.

      And if you have access then you can grant access to other people. This means people will start REQUIRING you to grant them access for various reasons. Some jobs will be labeled "sensitive positions" and won't hire you without full access. How long before parents start making this demand of baby sitters? We have to protect the children you know.

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:51AM (#4898233) Homepage Journal
    John Pointexter is the Smoking Man.
  • Oh, come on. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by UnknownBeetroot ( 633876 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @09:54AM (#4898260)
    All the information quoted in the article that people have dug up is publicly available anyway. If you want to make anyone's life a misery, get their phone number, publish it, post their address - and make sure to target geeks who think it's all very funny, so they'll get signed up for lots of mailings and badgered with phone calls. In cases like spamming the spammer, it's funny and appropriate. In cases like information awareness, making his address public is one step - harrassing him using those details is another thing entirely.

    I mean, come on, they have access to all your information in case of need anyway. They can already subpoena banks, airlines, get your criminal records etc... so what if the FBI can access your records at any time? You think they're going to find it funny that you rent a pron video of animal action once a month? They're not even going to care... the local store clerk has far more chance of finding it funny. Having information accessible to governments is not a problem unless you're naughty.

    If you seriously think that a central repository of information about you is so much worse than the chance of it doing good by catching criminals or terrorists, I personally think you're a dumbass. You think they're even going to look at your records unless the computer highlights something dodgy? You think that your credit card information will be published online for anyone to google? Yah.

    If you don't trust those people who'll be working with the information, do something about it - lobby for better selection procedures, vote for someone else. If you think harassing somebody who rightly thinks it's a good anti-crime system is a good way of preventing the system occuring, ask yourself - who's it going to help?
    • Come on, really. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sckienle ( 588934 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:28AM (#4898478)

      They can already subpoena banks, airlines, get your criminal records etc... so what if the FBI can access your records at any time?

      That is the whole point! Yes the FBI can get this information, but first they have to prove to a judge that there is probable cause that you are breaking the law. They can't just walk down the hallway and say, give me everything on X and don't ask why.

      The US Constitution and laws are built this way for a reason. There is a whole system of Checks and Balances to help prevent misuse of power. To prevent, specifically, the tyranny the colonies were living with under the English rule. How have those goals to prevent tyranny changed in 200 years?

      That haven't; some politicians have just forgotten why the country was formed.

      Come on everyone, this whole post is basic 9th grade civics.

      • by ansible ( 9585 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:38AM (#4898816) Journal

        Yes the FBI can get this information, but first they have to prove to a judge that there is probable cause that you are breaking the law.

        Well, they used to, anyway. You need to catch up on the Patriot Act and some of the other anti-terrorism legislation that's been passed recently.

    • by qwijibrumm ( 559350 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:19AM (#4898695)
      Alright, I'll bite...

      I mean, come on, they have access to all your information in case of need anyway. They can already subpoena banks, airlines, get your criminal records etc...

      They can do this. You are correct. But this requires concent of something called a "judge". I like to think of this "judge" as an impartial third party with little interest besides the law. Under the TIA, they won't need a judge, they can just access all your information and profile you.

      Having information accessible to governments is not a problem unless you're naughty.

      Ok... let's throw up a for instance. You make a large cash withdrawl to loan a friend money for rent. You have to do this every couple of months he's kind of down on his luck. Now you go to the book store to purchase a book for your English class, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. A couple months later you move to Chicago, so you buy a one way plane ticket. No big deal, you are not doing anything wrong.

      Now, do the same things, for the same reasons, being a 26 year old Middle Eastern Male...... Now you have the FBI NSA ATF etc. grilling you. But you weren't being "naughty." just "Middle Eastern."

      If you seriously think that a central repository of information about you is so much worse than the chance of it doing good by catching criminals or terrorists, I personally think you're a dumbass.

      I am just trying to help you see the flaws in your logic. You are entitled to that opinion. Just as I am entitled to the opinion that if you seriously think a central repository of information will do so much good in catching terrorists, that you would waive your right to privacy and proper searches, I personally think you're a coward.

    • Re:Oh, come on. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stinky wizzleteats ( 552063 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @12:00PM (#4898893) Homepage Journal

      Having information accessible to governments is not a problem unless you're naughty.

      You're trolling, right? Please say you're trolling.

      You think they're going to find it funny that you rent a pron video of animal action once a month? They're not even going to care...

      I perform expert witness testimony in computer related criminal cases, most of which revolve around obscenity allegations. I can say, with some authority, that you have not the slightest fucking idea (no pun intended) what you are talking about. Beastiality is covered by most obscenity laws, so not only will the FBI care, they will put you in prison for it. The numbers the FBI has to make to keep their job is convictions, and computer geeks who've been sent child porn images via spam make very easy convictions. I've seen guys go away for less than the example you provided.

      They can already subpoena banks, airlines, get your criminal records etc... so what if the FBI can access your records at any time?

      A subpeona is one thing. A blank check search warrant is quite another. Given the lengths I've seen the FBI go to in order to get said search warrant, I can say that Society As We Know it will be quite different when the need to do so no longer exists.

      If you don't trust those people who'll be working with the information, do something about it

      Unless the 4th, 7th, and 9th amendments have been removed from the Constitution, I'm not supposed to have to do anything about it. That's how rights (are supposed to) work.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This continuing story is based very little on fact, and mostly on emotions. Here are two of the points that I think cause some of the anger and confusion:

    1. The TIA system *could* be applied to personal information.

    2. Poindexter is an unliked former government official with a criminal record.

    Regarding 1, what people are missing is that there are two aspects (at least with respet to this program) of developing software: technology and policy. With TIA, the technology is mining large quantities of *some* data to find patterns to help stop terrorists. I don't think many on /. would argue that fighting terrorism is a bad thing. The policy aspect determines *what* information would go into the system. It would be totally determined by law, and like any law of this nature (IMHO) we citizens could (and should!) oppose ones that sacrifice our hard-won personal freedoms. This guy said it better:

    "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

    Regarding 2, Poindexter was probably a great choice for the technical development of the program (he's really smart), but in hindsight a bad choice for personal reasons.

    So what can we as software developers do? I think we have a duty to do what we can to ensure our programs are used correctly. Should people who do research into data mining stop because it might be used against innocents? No - someone else *will* develop the program, and they might not care about personal freedom implications. In the case of data mining, we should do as much to make the programs smart enough to limit (as much as possible) their inappropriate application to innocents. A few ideas: ensure that the program tells users when they are returning results that aren't valid, when they are being applied incorrectly, etc. But ultimately we cannot control how our work is applied - it's like developing any powerful technology such as, say, a web authoring tool - yes you can use it to promote hatred, tell how to bomb your local clinic, or publish my personal phone number and pictures of my house because you don't like me.

    Just trying to present a bit of balance...
    • i take it that it's your opinion that german chemists in the 30's should have focused on making poinsonous gasses that killed quickly and painlessly?
    • I'd make the observation that, by your logic, the idea of the FBI keeping files on say .... John Lennon, for instance, should just be accepted as all part of the effort to fight communism. And if an unnamed government source, ala Richard Jewel, accidently leaked, at the height of The Beatles popularity, that Lennon had a particular affinity for child porn, as long as the government prints an official appology on A23 in the smallest italics the intelligence community can afford, it's just part of the price we all must pay.

      You sir, are a bonafide optimist. I, however, consider myself more pragmatic. I find myself unable to place my faith in a "higher power", and unwilling to place it, perhaps more precariously, in my fellow man.

      Why would Kenneth Lay lie, he's a shareholder too! As an example.
    • --in a reverse sort of way, poindexter and kissinger were great appointees to repectably TIA and one of the 9-11 "truth finding" commissions, they helped focus on the fact how BOGUS they are. The media and public reaction have been pretty good-almost universal condemnation. Much better this junta tips their hand to their true agenda by showing who they think are "good guys" that they pick, known past goons. Just their "goonishness" magnified the press coverage and contributes to the needed outrage. And that TIA logo? HAHAHAHA! Just about anyone can look at that and see it's just weird cult demonic, it looks terrible, it's scary looking to most sane adults. I'm glad the junta is being so stupid, more and more people are tumbling to their agendas.
  • by dackroyd ( 468778 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:11AM (#4898365) Homepage
    Why do I get the nasty idea that the some people in the military/CIA had thought of the Total Information Awareness program some time ago and were just waiting for a problem to propose it as a solution ?

    I mean the horrendous events of Sept 11th didn't slip past the security services because there wasn't enough information available, they slipped past because none of the analysts connected the dots between known associates of terrorists in the USA + money being sent to these people from Saudi + lots of odd(*) people wanting to learn how to fly jets = big friqin problem.

    Increasing the amount of detail that the analysts have to deal with would not solve any of the problems that allowed Sept. 11th to happen, but would make the governments job of cracking down on US dissidents easier.

    It's the same in the UK. The civil service seem very eager for there to be a national identity card, and keep proposing it as a solution for a variety of different problems.
    One year it can be used to combat terrorism, the next it can be used to crack down on asylum seekers. ooh how about we use to prevent identity fraud ? Every time the public refuses to accept this government monitoring of them, but still the civil servants keep suggesting the same plan over and over.

    * Odd people = Students who come to the US on a visa, then are allowed to drop the studying and start learning how to do a job (breaking the terms of their visa), and who then act suspiciously enough during the lessons, so that the instructors call the FBI to warn them they think the students might be terrorists wanting to fly the planes into buuldings []
    • by Oddly_Drac ( 625066 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:36AM (#4898813)
      It's the same in the UK. The civil service seem very eager for there to be a national identity card, and keep proposing it as a solution for a variety of different problems. One year it can be used to combat terrorism, the next it can be used to crack down on asylum seekers. ooh how about we use to prevent identity fraud ? Every time the public refuses to accept this government monitoring of them, but still the civil servants keep suggesting the same plan over and over. I must admit that I haven't fathomed out why the identity card is going to be better (New! Improved!!) than our existing passports and/or national insurance numbers. Either those mechanisms of identity verification are so flawed as to be laughable (chilling in the case of passports) or there is another agenda than merely verifying someone's identity. I note that most places are refusing passports as a method of identification these days. I'm strenuously opposing the idea they have of supplying 'smart cards' containing personal information. Kinda the reason we started using serverside sessions rather than cookies all those years back. I think one thing that annoys me more than anything else is that government looks at the technology that Geeks have put through the mincer and rejected and think, 'hey, that's neat'. I've seen what passes for IT in government and the NHS and it frightens me, seriously. Oddly Draconis. If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand.
  • Jam the system (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Trotskyite ( 634683 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:15AM (#4898399)
    Couldn't some resourceful and concerned programmer simply write and distribute a program that could automatically generate key phrases and insert them into chat and e-mail messages to trigger Carnivore? DOS THEIR servers with bogus warnings that could constantly change monthly to keep up with their filters? I am sure those we write to would understand and even adopt the practice. It would only take a few thousand people all answering their phones with a, "Hello, allah ackbar!, proceed with mission, what's up? How could they truly filter out such massive amounts of info? Jam the system. Bring it to it's knees.
    • Won't work (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sckienle ( 588934 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:50AM (#4898518)

      I may be off base here, but every time I see what is effectively a "There will be too much data for them to abuse (or attack one person)" I think the following:

      The US/Mexico border is huge. So large in fact that no one can use the entire border to cross over into the US. Therefore the border cannot be crossed illegally.

      That sounds, and is, silly; you only need to use a small part of the border to cross illegally. I think the "too much data" argument is equally silly. You don't need to use all of the data provided to perform illegal actions, just a small part of it. Similarly, adding a bunch of noise won't prevent someone from being persecuted because they emailed the same phrase as a joke.

      Putting data into one place is dangerous, period.

  • by The AtomicPunk ( 450829 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:19AM (#4898427)
    After all, you voted these jackasses in when you voted for a demopublican or a republicrat.

    I guess a few of you voted Libertarian, and thus can't be blamed, but the rest of you made your bed - now lie in it.

    • If you can't tell the difference between a Republican and a Democrat, you're only listening to what they say and not looking at what they're doing. Do you really think that Gore would have created this big-brother organization that Cheney and Rove are creating?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here is an article from the American Forces Press Service [] in response to the TIA arguments. There are links to other articles that will represent the government's perspective and response to the media.

    Partial Quote Below

    At issue among reporters was the potential of the federal government to access the everyday transactions of ordinary citizens -- passport, visa and drivers license applications, airline ticket or rental car reservations, medical data, and even credit and debit card purchases, for instance.

    Again, Aldridge defended the project. He said data put into the system would be subject to the same Privacy Act restrictions that govern law enforcement and government actions today. Officials would not be scrutinizing everyday transactions by ordinary citizens. The system would only look closely at transactions or combinations of transactions that officials know are possible indicators of terrorist actions.

    For instance, if the system sees evidence of an individual buying large amounts of chemicals that can be used to make explosives then renting a van near a major metropolitan area, the system might throw up a red flag. To further investigate the individual, law enforcement agents would have to go through the same legal proceedings that are necessary today to protect individual rights, Aldridge explained.

    He stressed this system is a tool for law enforcement agencies that is merely being studied by the Defense Department, not a way for the government to spy on the American public.

    "It is absurd to think that DARPA is somehow trying to become another police agency," he said.

  • Unfortunately... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cthulhubob ( 161144 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @10:46AM (#4898516) Homepage

    The next addition (if it's not part already) of TIA will be keeping track of who accesses public databases looking for information about public figures.

    Remember our good friend Henry Kissinger? He just resigned from the non-partisan committee to investigate September 11, and changed his answering machine message because of all the flak over having a war criminal and cover-up artist in charge of the most sensitive piece of police work going on right now. I'm sure he's in favor of locking up people who look for his personal info... or at least overthrowing their democratically elected leaders and installing a dictator who will kill them anyway.

    (aside: I can't stop laughing at this one joke on the most recent page of Get Your War On [] -- When Kissinger signs a government paycheck, does he use a ballpoint pen, or the bloody, severed limb of an East Timorese child?)

  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:02AM (#4898565) Homepage
    Once again, life imitates humorous SciFi - the TIA project sounds amazingly like the Total Perspective Vortex [].

  • by sckienle ( 588934 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:02AM (#4898568)

    I'm tired of hearing the "connect the dots" argument for two reasons.

    1. If it really were that easy, they wouldn't need the TIA effort at all, the information currently collected would be enough.
    2. I remember reading some where, I wish I could remember, that the FAA was supposed to contact the military when any flight deviates from its course without notification. If that was done, there would have been jets around the planes well before they could have crashed into the buildings. Sometimes executed response plans are enough to help ensure safety.
    • I remember reading some where, I wish I could remember, that the FAA was supposed to contact the military when any flight deviates from its course without notification. If that was done, there would have been jets around the planes well before they could have crashed into the buildings. Sometimes executed response plans are enough to help ensure safety.

      Whether or not the FAA contacted the military, there would have been no jets around those planes. Until 9/11, we thought that the worst that would happen with a hijacked plane was that it would be crashed and all the people in it (including the hijackers) would die. We also thought that that was the *last* thing the hijackers wanted.

      The reason the fourth plane never hit a target was because someone on their cell phone found out about the first three, and realized they were all going to die no matter what they did... and the least they could do was make sure no one on the ground died too. Until that bit of info filtered in, it was "common knowledge" that hijackers are only deadly if you don't cooperate. i.e. they won't kill anyone so long as you don't send military jets up to escort them.

      Just after 9 a.m. EDT on 9/11/2001, planes were reclassified as weapons of mass destruction. But no one imagined they would be used that way until then, and no one thought to treat them that way either.
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:05AM (#4898585)
    The problem with "TIA" is not that it peeks into everybody's finances and personal life--the problem is that it gives the government so much more information than private citizens. That kind of information monopoly means that the government can then use blackmail to manipulate people. And don't think it doesn't happen--this kind of thing has a long history, both in the US and other countries.

    If information like taxes, license plates and vehicle registration, purchase patterns, driving records, medical treatments, etc., were universally and publically available, I think we would have fewer problems than we have now. Most people would realize that their deep, dark secrets are not so deep and dark--that there are many other people with similar issues. It would keep politicians and regular folks more honest and polite--because nothing would be really anonymous anymore. And blackmail would be pretty much impossible--how can you blackmail someone if everybody can find out almost anything anyway? And, finally, people could negotiate their salaries sensibly--right now, chances are you don't know how much you are being paid relative to your co-workers--how can you ever get an efficient labor market if the prices are not known?

    Of course, public access does not mean that things need to be as easy as Googling someone. I think Brin has captured a good balance between privacy and publically accessible information in his book "Kiln People" (it's incidental to the story): basically, you can find out, but the data is not aggregated in a single place, so if you do want to find out, it still costs you some time and money.

    • Seriously. Easy or not, do we really want everybody's personal information accessible?

      Also, if information is difficult to access, but still present, who will be the most likely to search it out? We can see who right now - those who want to cause some form of embarrassment or harm to the person.

      What happens to the woman who's husband was abusing her if he can track down where she now lives? What happens to the poor 68 year old single man who happens to use his credit card to buy a lot of lacey underwear and garters that happen to be his size? How about the head of the PTA or school principal who in her off hours frequents the fetish clubs?

      Maybe you won't try to impose your morals on these people, but can you honestly say there's nobody out there who will?

      Brin's arguments are nearly as flawed as Marx's in that they fail to take into account basic human nature, and give all the power to those people who have no sense of shame - usually those who believe their actions are the most righteous.

      Also, when reading Brin's Transparent Society, he horribly glosses over the problems of inequitable power. He blithely assumes that if we can see all our bosses peccadillos we will have as much power over our boss as he does over us. Of course, this is ludicrous - we can't fire our boss if we don't like his choice of reading material.

      If we all lived in a world where people used reason above all else to make their choices, maybe the fully transparent society would be a good one. Unfortunately, we don't. People tend to be reactionary, prejudiced, and frightened. Knowing something does not equate to understanding it, and as a whole, we tend to react violently to things we don't understand.

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:05AM (#4898586)
    I'm completely against the TIA program - I don't trust Poindexter, I don't trust anyone in the government now OR in the future with this kind of power - and it WONT protect us anyway.

    But there's something so rarely considered, especially in the mainstream media:

    Who says TIA is going to work right or get built right?

    I'm not just talking it becomes a failure - though it could be. I'm talking about the screw-ups that can happen - and the screw ups that may deliberately occur.

    Hackers/Crackers. Someone deciding to make a back door. Someone inside deciding to sabotage it or have some fun - or worse, manipulate it to their own ends.

    It's a project WAITING to go wrong.
  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @11:09AM (#4898617)
    All my ethical, legal, and personal questions with TIA far, FAR aside I see this:


    Yes, beyond the fact it's an Orwellian nightmare, it's also creating a central repository and system that, once people get using it and dependent on, represents a hideous bottleneck.

    Sorry, we can't do that - the TIA system is down!

    Damn, the data got corrupted in the TIA system and we arrested all of Paraguay!

    Who are these guys Jim Shoe and Bill Fold . . . ah, great, the sorts missed the joke names again.

    Someone hacked the TIA system and we can't get in.

    Someone cracked the TIA system and accessed the information on all of Los Angeles.

    Nice job guys. Great idea. TIA can be the central repository for screwing up, as WELL as flushingthe 4th Amendment down the toilet.
  • by geoff lane ( 93738 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @12:00PM (#4898900)
    gathering data is not a problem - it's everywhere. However, who or what is going to analyse it? There are not suffient trained analysts so some bright spark will suggest a AI approach. Billions will be spent and not one terrorist will be prevented from taking whatever evil action they decide to take.

    If those same billions were spend on security guard training within airports you will at least get better trained security guards.
  • The SwedishChef term-limits proposal ("SCheTLiP") works as follows: on election day, if they're incumbent, vote against them. This is the ONLY way to fight the entrenched agendas, the money, and the political muscle that we have arrayed against us now. After a few years of every incumbent being voted out of office at the next election, a few of them might actually consider paying attention to the electorate.
  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @12:11PM (#4898985)
    There's a simple metaphor in the famous Chuang-Tzu that goes basically like this:

    One can lock their valuables in a trunk to deter a thief. However a strong thief will just walk off with the chest.

    If TIA goes through it's going to be the perfect target for terrorists and other enemies. Imagine the chaos that can be caused by compromising it? Imagine what horrific acts can be planned if its data is accessed. Imagine what damage a compromised individual within TIA can do.

    Then toss in the fact it turns the government against its citizens - a perfect situation to take advantage of, and a great blow to America's image.

    So, if you want to fight terrorism, fight TIA. Otherwise we're giving terrorists and others a nice chest to walk off with.

  • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @01:24PM (#4899483) Journal
    Maybe I'm missing something here but if TIPS is a bad thing (and I agree it is) then why is it ok to use a simulation against Poindexter? Is it a question of degree? It's ok if individuals do it but not governments? How is it ok to do to Poindexter what he's proposing to do to us?

    The wrong is in the doing, not in the whom it is done to.

  • by LoRider ( 16327 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @02:07PM (#4899722) Homepage Journal
    I know a lot of you out there are thinking that the liberals should be against the TIA thingy, but it really should be the Republicans that have a shitfit over this crap.

    The good old Republican party used to be for less government and less government in your shit. What the hell happened to that? These fucking neo-cons that are running our country are scary mofos.

    Yes the ACLU should be throwing a fit and they are, but everyone (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Greens) should be putting up their fists and fighting this blatant abuse of power.

    Please write or fax your politicians and tell them what you think. Harassing some dork with phone calls is funny, but this aint Crank Yankers this is politics and prank phone calls are going to stop anything. The only hope is that the media stop sucking Bush's dick and start talking some smack.
  • by Proteus Child ( 535173 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @03:25PM (#4900535) Homepage
    There is a petition posted on Petition Online [] to have the Homeland Security bill amended to be less invasive of personal privacy, viz, disallowing the TIA initiative. Take a look at it.

Keep up the good work! But please don't ask me to help.