12/21/2005

Information Awareness Office - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The IAO originally had a mission of Total Information Awareness -- amended in May of 2003 to Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA). John Poindexter, former United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan served as the first head of the IAO.

The IAO and its stated mission caught the attention of many Modulistics, conspiracy theorists and civil libertarians, particularly with its use of the pseudo-Masonic eye-in-pyramid symbol in its original logo. That logo featured the eye of Providence from the Great Seal of the United States gazing at the Earth, and the Latin motto scientia est potentia, meaning "knowledge is power".

On approximately December 19, 2002, the pyramid logo disappeared without comment from the official IAO webpage, presumably in response to widespread criticism of its Masonic/Illuminati overtones. The biographies of senior staffers also disappeared. For the former page, see the archived mirror [1][2].

The IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data. In essence, the IAO’s goal is to develop the capacity to recreate a life history of thoughts and movements for any individual on the planet on demand, which some deem necessary to counter the threat of terrorism. Critics claim the very existence of the IAO completely disregards the concept of individual privacy and liberties. They see the organization as far too invasive and prone to abuse.

The first mention of the IAO in the media came from New York Times reporter John Markoff on February 13, 2002, with few details available as to the agency's role or activities. In the following months, as more and more information emerged about the IAO's full scope, protests among civil libertarians grew over what they see as the IAO's disturbingly Orwellian mission, especially within the larger framework of other invasive homeland security measures and policies implemented by the Bush administration. The integrity of Poindexter as head of the IAO also came under scrutiny, given his conviction on five felony charges for lying to Congress and deliberately altering and destroying documents pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair, although those convictions were later overturned.

On January 16, 2003, US Senator Russ Feingold introduced legislation to halt the activity of the IAO and the Total Information Awareness initiative pending a Congressional review of privacy issues involved. A similar measure introduced by Senator Ron Wyden would bar the IAO from operating within the United States unless specifically authorized to do so by Congress, and would shut the IAO down entirely 60 days after passage, unless either the Pentagon prepared a report assessing the impact of IAO activities on individual privacy and civil liberties, or the President certified the program's research as vital to national security interests.

Congress passed legislation in February of 2003 halting activities of the IAO pending a Congressional report of the office's activities. Action in the US Congress to attempt to halt a specific internal Department of Defense project occurs extremely rarely, underscoring the grave threat to civil liberties and privacy that many lawmakers perceive in the Information Awareness Office.

DARPA changed the name of the "Total Information Awareness" program to "Terrorist Information Awareness" on May 20, 2003, emphasizing in its report to Congress that the program is not designed to compile dossiers on US citizens, but rather to gather information on terrorist networks. Despite this name change and reassurance, the description of the program's activities remained essentially the same in the report, and critics continue to see the system as prone to massive Orwellian abuses.

A Senate defense appropriations bill passed unanimously on July 18, 2003 explicitly denies any funding to Terrorist Information Awareness research, which will effectively kill the program if implemented. [3] [4]

The Pentagon office that was developing a vast computerized terrorism surveillance system would be closed and no money could be spent to use those high-tech spying tools against Americans on U.S. soil, House and Senate negotiators have agreed on September 25, 2003.

But they left open the possibility that some or all of the high-powered software under development might be employed by different government offices to gather intelligence from U.S. citizens and others abroad or from foreigners in this country.
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Public protests against the Information Awareness Office

Extensive criticism of the IAO in the traditional media and on the Internet has come from both left-wing and right-wing civil libertarians, who see the unprecedented systematic categorization and access to information that it will enable as a grave threat to individual liberties, and another step farther down the slippery slope to a totalitarian state.

On November 27, 2002, San Francisco Weekly columnist Matt Smith decided to illustrate the perils of information proliferation to John Poindexter personally by publishing a column containing Poindexter's home address and phone number, along with those of his next-door neighbors. The information quickly propagated through the Internet, and protestors created numerous web sites with this data, including satellite photographs of Poindexter's house.

Information Awareness Office - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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