Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bush Reconstituted TIA Program

Apparently, after being told by Congress to dismantle the Total Information Awareness program, Bush went ahead with it anyway under a different name and organization. Think Progress has part of the story:
Congress voted to shut down the Pentagon’s controversial Total Information Awareness program in 2003 (though not before it was renamed “Terrorism Information Awareness” — sound familiar?).

During a Senate hearing last week, General Michael Hayden was asked whether TIA had simply been “moved to various intelligence agencies” after Congress tried to terminate it.
Think Progress notes the exchange between Senator Wyden and General Hayden:
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): I and others on this panel led the effort to close it [Total Information Awareness]. We want to know if Mr. [John] Poindexter’s programs are going on somewhere else. Can anyone answer that? …

HAYDEN: Senator, I’d like to answer in closed session.
In an earlier post, Think Progress noted this exchange between Senator Feingold and National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte:
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): Mr. Ambassador, without getting into what the specific programs might be, can you assure us today that there are not other intelligence collection — and I emphasize collection — programs that you are aware of and that you are keeping from the full intelligence committee?

NEGROPONTE: Um… Senator, I … I don’t know if I can comment on that in an open session.
Michael Hirsh of MSNBC/Newsweek says "the core of TIA survives with a new codename of Topsail." Hirsh's piece suggests we may need such a program and but he ignores the potential for political abuse. Earlier in the article, Hirsh writes:
As a December 2002 report by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee noted, "Only a tiny fraction" of the NSA’s 650 million daily intercepts worldwide "are actually ever reviewed by humans, and much of what is collected gets lost in the deluge of data."
It is doubtful that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee had a full appreciation at the time that many of the intercepts were taking place in the United States with part of the calls overseas. And there is even now ambiguity of how many intercepts are exclusively within the United States. I have noted earlier that there has been ambiguity about intercepts between Americans who happen to be overseas (an example, though there is no direct evidence, would be intercepts between two diplomats overseas or even two journalists overseas). In 2006, what is the total daily number of intercepts now? And how many within the United States?

I don't think any of us have problem with authentic programs exclusively designed to gather intelligence on true al Qaida type terrorists. But there are a host of problems with what we now know of the NSA spying programs. First, there is a lack of oversight. Second, Bush has deliberately ignored Congress in the development of these programs. Third, Bush has ignored the oversight of the FISA courts. Fourth, Bush has largely ignored a wide range of possible measures that could keep al Qaida at bay without threatening our civil rights or democracy.

But the issue that concerns me the most is the enormous potential for abuse. The Bush Administration has already demonstrated that it is fully capable of stretching if not actually breaking the law when it comes to using government resources strictly for political purposes. Reporters have been paid to write articles friendly to the administration. Scientists have been silenced strictly for political purposes. There is considerable evidence that the administration abused several government agencies in order to lie its way into war in Iraq.

In the end, the problem continues to be trust, or rather the lack of it. Trust requires that the government tell us the truth. Trust requires a certain level of competence. Trust requires that there be no more secrecy than absolutely necessary. Trust requires that politics and party will not be put before the good of our nation and the US Constitution.

A growing number of Democrats recognize the issue. Even some Republicans are beginning to recognize the issue but more need to stand up. Our constitution and our democracy requires that our president be held accountable, however that might happen. But, at the minimum, the growing powers of George W. Bush must be checked.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

This likely additional example of circumventing the will of Congress comes as no surprise at all.

With Bush and the neocons, it's anything to win elections and to get your way in any other context.

To use an old-fashioned express, these people need to be taken down a peg or two, soon.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

That last should be:

To use an old-fashioned expression, these people need to be taken down a peg or two, soon.

9:47 PM  

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