Asymmetric Total Information Awareness

by Jan Baughman

December 2, 2002


"The most serious asymmetric threat facing the United States is terrorism, a threat characterized by collections of people loosely organized in shadowy networks that are difficult to identify and define," as stated in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Information Awareness Office's (IAO) newest shadowy project, Total Information Awareness (TIA).

Perusing DARPA's and any other military website (thereby registering myself on the radar screen...), one finds a diagram and flow chart for just about everything. What's missing is a translation of defense jargon, so I first had to do some research on "asymmetric threat," a phrase creeping into our living rooms as did the words 'evil' and 'cell.' Turns out that asymmetric threat is "a broad and unpredictable spectrum of military, paramilitary, and information operations, conducted by nations, organizations, or individuals or by indigenous or surrogate forces under their control, specifically targeting weaknesses and vulnerabilities within an enemy government or armed force." Whew, clearly the broadness and unpredictability of asymmetric warfare (AW) necessitates TIA.

"Total Information Awareness of transnational threats requires keeping track of individuals and understanding how they fit into models," says the DARPA IAO TIA diagram, elevating the phrase 'model citizen' to a whole new level, military jargon-wise. One must detect, classify, identify, track, understand and then preempt! Now, detection is the tricky part and the backbone of TIA, and there are a lot of us worldwide to track and detect. What data will be available for this lofty task? Financial, education, travel, medical, veterinary (be sure your dog is licensed), country entry, place/event entry, transportation, housing, critical resources, government, communications -- did we miss anything? Oh, yes -- face, finger prints, gait, iris; (stay tuned for your genetic map) -- all are fed, through a dotted line for 'privacy and security' (which doesn't exactly appear impenetrable) to 'automated virtual data repositories,' with a reciprocal link to a collaborative, multi-agency analytical environment with its discovery tools and models, which reciprocates with a collaborative, multi-agency policy and ops [operations] environment with its plausible futures and options, both of which draw from some corporate memory, and the ultimate outputs are intel [intelligence] data, et voila, out pop decisions! Your fate, in keystrokes! CIA and FBI be damned!

You really should see the chart for yourself.

Now, this TIA has prompted some reasonable people to have their own personal TIA (a stroke, or transient ischemic attack, in medical jargon) over yet another massive blow to liberty and privacy in the name of 'national security,' (that is, a war on terrorism turned war on Iraq...) Have no fear, for that is why we have our great system of checks and balances! On the checks side, enter overturned felon John Poindexter -- if anyone can keep a secret, it is he! Why, he didn't even tell President Reagan, let alone Congress, about the diversion of funds from arms sales to Iran to support the contras in Nicaragua, so rest assured your bank transactions are safe with him! On the balances side, we have that great defender of Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations (one big oxymoron of a title!) Elliot Abrams. Not to worry, Abrams can also keep secrets -- President George H.W. Bush even pardoned him for withholding Iran-contra information from Congress. And just in case we have Attorney General John Ashcroft, staunch defender of American privacy -- oops, that was 1997! A bygone era, already.

What's going on here? Are we preparing for Iran-Contra 2, with arms to be sold to Iran and funds diverted to Iraqi contras to overthrow Saddam so the US can keep its hands clean? Is that why these once-tainted guys are getting jobs everywhere? Are Tom Ridge and his Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the IAO TIA just a ruse to keep us paranoid and divert our attention to silly constitutional matters, so that when Bush 2 is long gone and Contra 2 is exposed, we'll merely be relieved that after a big scare we've still managed to survive and we have a civil right or two left?!?

For now, one can only surmise that with DHS and TIA, FOIA* will be MIA, and we may never know the answer. That's asymmetry for you.

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DARPA explains Total Information Awareness

The Asymmetric Threat
by Cadet First Class Michael L. Kolodzie, USMA

Iran-Contra Felons Get Good Jobs from Bush
by Tom Raum

Go to ACLU.org and send a message to President Bush opposing TIA: http://www.aclu.org/Privacy/Privacy.cfm?ID=11323&c=130

*  FOIA (http://www.usdoj.gov/04foia/): "The Freedom of Information Act, which can be found in Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, was enacted in 1966 and provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the United States government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for those records that are protected from disclosure by the nine exemptions and three exclusions of the FOIA. This right of access is enforceable in court."  (back)


Jan Baughman is a scientist in the Biotech Industry. When Jan does not travel around the world on behalf of the company where she manages a clinical research department, she spends most of her time devouring books like candies and relaxing over the preparation of the finest recipes in Northern California. She started writing at a very young age when she found this mode of expression easier than having to answer the perpetually boring and conservative chit-chat around her. Jan's sense of observation is directly related to her sense of humor. She is a founding member and co-editor of Swans, and brings to the site wit and a lightness of being.

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This Week's Internal Links

Censorship By Other Means: The Witch-Hunting of a Professor - by Gilles d'Aymery

Keep Big Brother's Hands Off The Internet - by [then] Senator John Ashcroft

Screams And Cries: Prison Camp Lora and the Trial of the Lora 8 - by Gregory Elich

Hold The Turkey - by Michael Stowell

An Invitation To Catastrophe - by Milo Clark

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Palestinian Children In The Night - by Sam Bahour

Pity the Poor Iraqi - by Philip Greenspan

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The Search For A Nonviolent Future - Book Review by Mac Lawrence

Swans, The Birds - by Gilles d'Aymery

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Published December 2, 2002
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