from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 117
November 21, 2002
DOD ELABORATES ON "TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS"
- DOD ELABORATES ON "TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS"
- LEAHY ON FOIA AND HOMELAND SECURITY
- SECRECY IN THE NEWS
- FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
- OTHER RESOURCES
The Pentagon yesterday answered questions from reporters about the DARPA "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) initiative that would seek to detect terrorists by rooting through databases of Americans' personal transactions.
But the answers seemed unlikely to assuage critics concerned about violations of personal privacy, expanding government surveillance and eroding constitutional values.
"The war on terror and the tracking of potential terrorists and terrorist acts require that we search for clues of such activities in a mass of data," said Under Secretary of Defense Edward C. Aldridge. "The purpose of TIA would be to determine the feasibility of searching vast quantities of data to determine links and patterns indicative of terrorist activities."
"The bottom line is, this is an important research project to determine the feasibility of using certain transactions and events to discover and respond to terrorists before they act."
Mr. Aldridge stressed that TIA is at an early developmental stage that does not currently entail actual surveillance or conflict with privacy laws.
"I don't know what the scope of this is going to be, what it's going to take to make this work yet," he said.
See his remarks at a November 20 Pentagon press briefing here:
Dozens of civil liberties organizations wrote a letter this week calling upon the Senate "to stop the development of this unconstitutional system of public surveillance." See the November 18 letter on the web site of the Electronic Privacy Information Center:
An explanatory statement on the Homeland Security Act that was inserted into the Congressional Record (Page S11412, 11/19/02) by Senator Joseph Lieberman declared as follows:
"Nothing in this legislation should be construed as requiring or encouraging HSARPA [the newly established Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency] to adopt or replicate any specific programs within DARPA, such as the Total Information Awareness Program, or as conferring HSARPA with any additional authority to overcome privacy laws when developing technologies for information-collection."
LEAHY ON FOIA AND HOMELAND SECURITY
Under the Homeland Security Act, critical infrastructure information that is voluntarily submitted to the government by industry will now be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
This new exemption "guts the FOIA at the expense of our national security and public health and safety," said Senator Patrick Leahy in an extended critique of the new law's FOIA implications.
"This provision means that if a Federal regulatory agency needs to issue a regulation to protect the public from threats of harm, it cannot rely on any voluntarily submitted information--bringing the normal regulatory process to a grinding halt," according to Sen. Leahy.
"Public health and law enforcement officials need the flexibility to decide how and when to warn or prepare the public in the safest, most effective manner. They should not have to get 'sign off' from a Fortune 500 company to do so."
"We do not respect the spirit of our democracy when we cloak in secrecy the workings of our Government from the public we are elected to serve."
See Senator Leahy's November 19 floor statement on Homeland Security and the Freedom of Information Act here:
SECRECY IN THE NEWS
While much of the Bush Administration's expansive secrecy policy reflects a Republican predilection for unfettered executive authority, some of the most influential critics of that policy are also Republicans or conservatives. One conservative argument that the Bush White House has "Too Many Secrets" was presented by Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation in a November 20 Washington Post op-ed:
Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to experience gross lapses in security, including missing and stolen computers and other hardware, according to an internal memorandum obtained by the Project on Government Oversight:
See also "Los Alamos Lab Property Said Missing" by Deborah Baker, Associated Press, November 20:
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Secrecy News (11/19/02) cited a new World Bank publication which contends that "A vigorous and independent news media sector can boost economic development around the world by promoting good government and empowering citizens." But things may not be quite that simple.
"This is one of the most often repeated and rarely tested folk theories in recent memory," wrote Alan J. Kuperman of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "It is terribly wrong."
Rwanda's "vigorous and independent media" helped lay the groundwork for genocide there, Kuperman observed. The "vigorous and independent media in Slovenia ... mobilized support for secession, which triggered all the horrible wars there."
Nor is diversity of media outlets a sufficient qualification. "Rwanda had diversity: Moderate government Hutu radio; extremist private Hutu radio; and Tutsi rebel radio station."
A newly invigorated news media sector in the Arab world is also not an unadulterated good, wrote Jon B. Alterman of the Center for International and Strategic Studies in today's Wall Street Journal ("Slouching Toward Ramallah").
"Instead of a voice for change and political courage, the [Arabic language] TV stations and newspapers too often play to the galleries, legitimizing harebrained ideas and coarsening public debate," according to Alterman.
While a free press may be "necessary for robust democracy," Kuperman wrote, "it certainly is not necessary for economic prosperity. (Witness Singapore, where if you say boo about the President you get locked up or thrown out of the country. At last check, Singapore had the third highest GDP per capita in Asia after Japan and Hong Kong.)"
"In the end, what really matters is not the institutions (of media or civil society) but their content," he said.
"Marxism-Leninism brings to light the laws governing the development of the history of human society. Its basic tenets are correct and have tremendous vitality," according to the newly amended Constitution of the Community Party of China.
"So long as the Chinese Communists uphold the basic tenets of Marxism- Leninism and follow the road suited to China's specific conditions and chosen by the Chinese people of their own accord, the socialist cause in China will be crowned with final victory."
For now, however, "China is at the primary stage of socialism and will remain so for a long period of time."
See the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, as amended November 14, 2002 and published by the Xinhua News Agency, here:
Next May, the U.S. State Department will hold a conference on "The U.S., Guatemala, and Latin America: New Perspectives on the 1954 Coup."
The CIA-instigated coup, which overthrew the government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, established a template for cold war covert action whose consequences continue to reverberate decades later.
See this Call for Papers from the State Department Office of the Historian:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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