Congress Kills Data-Mining Computer Program

Article excerpt

Byline: Audrey Hudson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Congress has pulled the plug on a data-mining computer program criticized by privacy advocates as a supersnoop system to spy on American citizens and is closing the Pentagon office that created it.

"The outcome is we are not going to have Americans picked up by their ankles and turned upside down then shaken to see if anything funny falls out," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and leading opponent of the office's activities.

"We won't see Americans on American soil being targeted under the biggest surveillance program in the history of the U.S.," Mr. Wyden said.

A House and Senate conference committee late Wednesday agreed on instructions to close the Information Awareness Office (IAO) and included the instructions in the final defense spending bill for 2004. The bill cannot be amended and is expected to pass both legislative bodies and then signed by President Bush, despite the administration's support for the program.

"The conferees are concerned about the activities of the Information Awareness Office and direct that the office be terminated immediately," the legislation says.

Congress will allow the continuation of research projects at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which oversaw the IAO, that do not involve data mining, and will not restrict the National Foreign Intelligence Program from using technology tools developed under TIA for foreign intelligence purposes overseas.

The IAO created the Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program that designed software to mine data, including credit card, medical and travel records, in its search for terrorists.

"Congress is shutting down TIA, but we are not forgoing the use of technology to sharpen our homeland security efforts and track terrorists here and around the world," Mr. …