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Rob Morse Banner
Fighting terror by terrifying U.S. citizens

ROB MORSE
Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Live by the Internet, be enslaved by the Internet.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which funded the development of the Internet, is now funding the Information Awareness Office (IAO) to develop a "large-scale counterterrorism database." The idea is to keep track of every bit of information on everyone in the country and "detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists."

So far, the Pentagon scientists have terrified a lot of Americans. The program manager for the IAO is John Poindexter, the retired admiral who masterminded the shameful Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scheme.

Now he's master-minding the supercomputers that DARPA developed in the '80s,

while he was lying to Congress.

Poindexter doesn't have all our phone calls, Macy's purchases and bridge crossings in a database yet. So far DARPA has an arrows-and-boxes model of what this "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) system will look like.

Your "transactional data" (financial, medical, governmental, etc.) will be combined with biometric data such as fingerprints in "automated virtual data repositories" -- after passing through a dotted line in the flow chart labeled "privacy and security."

It's a very thin dotted line.

Then the data will be fed into a "collaborative multiagency analytical environment," which probably means a bunch of spooks sitting around a table. From there the data goes to the "policy and ops environment," and the ops include "pre-empt."

I don't know if that means Guantanamo or a bullet to the back of the head. But remember who's in charge of the data. And remember that it's data on you.


So far individual crazies and wonks are ahead of Poindexter in mining data from the Internet.

In June, the Illuminati Conspiracy Archive posted a story on the IAO amid stories on UFOs and microchips implanted in humans. It pointed out that the official seal of the IAO is the "all-seeing eye" associated with the Illuminati -- a shadowy group of Freemasons that for centuries has been rumored to rule the world.

Sure enough, the IAO logo shows an eye on top of a pyramid shining onto a globe -- with the Middle East most brightly lit.

Poindexter. The all-seeing eye. The Illuminati. A centralized database measured in petabytes. Thank you, DARPA, for giving us the Total Paranoia System.


How could Big Brother be so dumb? DARPA has hired a proven scoundrel to rummage through all our records without a warrant.

"DARPA was founded in 1958, and the people who sat in that office in those early years were much more attuned to broader policy issues," said Smithsonian Institution historian Martin J. Collins, who wrote "Cold War Laboratory," on science, weapons development and free society during the Cold War.

DARPA's notion of using "Total Information Awareness" to find a few terrorists sounds like SOSUS, the Navy's Sound Surveillance System that picked up all the sound in the ocean to track Soviet submarines.

"That's an interesting analogy," said Collins, who found the use of acronyms similar to the Cold War. "But it makes it (TIA) sound too benign."

These are not whales, merchant ships and Foxtrot-class subs the government will be listening to. The government will be listening to every move we make. You'll have to take the word of a man who lied to Congress that he's just listening to terrorists.

On "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" Monday, Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Center said: "I think there's a real argument to be made at this point that this project should be suspended by the U.S. Congress until further investigation of the capability and imagined ends are understood."

Perhaps he puts too much faith in Congress. Poindexter has been there before, and Congress is weaker now.

All our technological strength bespeaks weakness. Poindexter's IAO is also funding "Babylon," a handheld automated speech translation system for the soldiers of a country weak on languages.

Maybe that will work, but how about "FutureMAP," which concentrates on "market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events."

It sounds like a jobs program for out-of-work stock market analysts. Man, are we in trouble. I am, anyway. This goes straight into the database.

Rob Morse's column appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. His e-mail address is rmorse@sfchronicle.com.

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