Total Information Awareness (TIA) was a program of the United States Information Awareness Office that began during the 2003 fiscal year. It operated under this title from February until May 2003, before being renamed as the Terrorism Information Awareness.
Based on the concept of predictive policing, TIA aimed to gather detailed information about individuals in order to anticipate and prevent crimes before they are committed. As part of efforts to win the War on Terror, the program searched for all sorts of personal information in the hunt for terrorists around the globe. Admiral John Poindexterreferred to it as a “Manhattan Project for Counter-Terrorism“. According to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), TIA was the “biggest surveillance program in the history of the United States“.
The program was defunded alongside the Information Awareness Office in late 2003 by the United States Congress after media reports criticized the government for attempting to establish “Total Information Awareness” over all citizens.
Although the program was formally suspended, its data mining software was later adopted by other government agencies, with only superficial changes being made. The core architecture of TIA continued development under the code name “Basketball.” According to a 2012 New York Times article, the legacy of Total Information Awareness is “quietly thriving” at the National Security Agency (NSA).
- 1Program synopsis
- 1.2.2Genoa II
- 1.2.4Scalable Social Network Analysis
- 1.2.5Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery
- 1.2.6Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment
- 1.2.7Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization
- 1.2.9Human Identification at a Distance
- 1.3Scope of surveillance
- 4In popular culture
- 5See also
- 6External links
Total Information Awareness (TIA) was intended to be a five year long research project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal was to integrate components from previous and brand new government intelligence and surveillance programs, including Genoa, Genoa II, Genisys, SSNA, EELD, WAE, TIDES, Communicator, HumanID and Bio-Surveillance with data mining knowledge gleamed from the private sector to create a resource for the intelligence, counterintelligence, and law enforcementcommunities. These components consisted of information analysis, collaboration, decision-support tools, language translation, data-searching, pattern recognition, and privacy-protection technologies.
TIA research included or planned to include the participation of nine government entities: INSCOM, NSA, DIA, CIA, CIFA, STRATCOM, SOCOM, JFCOM, JWAC. These agencies were to be able to access TIA’s programs through a series of dedicated nodes. TIA’s hardware was to be housed by INSCOM in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Companies that were contracted to work on TIA included the Science Applications International Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Schafer Corporation, SRS Technologies, Adroit Systems, CACI Dynamic Systems, ASI Systems International, and Syntek Technologies.
The goal of the Total Information Awareness program was to revolutionize the ability of the United States to detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists – and decipher their plans – and thereby enable the U.S. to take timely action to successfully preempt and defeat terrorist acts.
To that end, the TIA program objective was to create a counter-terrorism information system that:
1. Increases information coverage by an order of magnitude, and affords easy future scaling
2. Provides focused warnings within an hour after a triggering event occurs or an evidence threshold is passed
3. Automatically queues analysts based on partial pattern matches and has patterns that cover 90% of all previously known foreign terrorist attacks
4. Supports collaboration, analytical reasoning and information sharing so that analysts can hypothesize, test and propose theories and mitigating strategies about possible futures, so decision-makers can effectively evaluate the impact of current or future policies and prospective courses of action.
Unlike the other program components, Genoa predated Total Information Awareness and provided a basis for it. Genoa’s primary function was intelligence analysis in order to assist human analysts. The program was designed to support both top-down and bottom-up approaches; a policy maker could hypothesize a possible attack and use Genoa to look for supporting evidence of such a plot, or it would compile pieces of intelligence into a diagram and suggest possible outcomes. Human analysts would then be able to modify the diagram to test various cases.
Genoa, which had been independently commissioned in 1996, was completed in 2002 as scheduled.
While Genoa primarily focused on intelligence analyses, Genoa II was aimed towards providing means with which computers, software agents, policy makers, and field operatives could collaborate.
Genisys aimed at developing technologies which would enable “ultra-large, all-source information repositories”.
Vast amounts of information were going to be collected and analyzed, and the available database technology at the time was insufficient for storing and organizing such enormous quantities of data. So they developed techniques for virtual data aggregation in order to support effective analysis across heterogeneous databases, as well as unstructured public data sources, such as the World Wide Web. “Effective analysis across heterogenous databases” means the ability to take things from databases which are designed to store different types of data—such as a database containing criminal records, a phone call database and a foreign intelligence database. The World Wide Web is considered an “unstructured public data source” because it is publicly accessible and contains many different types of data—such as blogs, emails, records of visits to web sites, etc.—all of which need to be analyzed and stored efficiently.
Another goal was to develop “a large, distributed system architecture for managing the huge volume of raw data input, analysis results, and feedback, that will result in a simpler, more flexible data store that performs well and allows us to retain important data indefinitely.”
Scalable Social Network Analysis
Scalable Social Network Analysis (SSNA) aimed at developing techniques based on social network analysis for modeling the key characteristics of terrorist groups and discriminating these groups from other types of societal groups.
Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery
Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery (EELD) developed technologies and tools for automated discovery, extraction and linking of sparse evidence contained in large amounts of classified and unclassified data sources (such as phone call records from the NSA call database, internet histories, or bank records).
EELD was designed to design systems with the ability to extract data from multiple sources (e.g., text messages, social networking sites, financial records, and web pages). It was to develop the ability to detect patterns comprising multiple types of links between data items or people communicating (e.g., financial transactions, communications, travel, etc.).
It is designed to link items relating potential “terrorist” groups and scenarios, and to learn patterns of different groups or scenarios to identify new organizations and emerging threats.
Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment
Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment (WAE) focused on developing automated technology capable of identifying predictive indicators of terrorist activity or impending attacks by examining individual and group behavior in broad environmental context and examining the motivation of specific terrorists.
Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization
Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization (TIDES) developing advanced language processing technology to enable English speakers to find and interpret critical information in multiple languages without requiring knowledge of those languages.
Outside groups (such as universities, corporations, etc.) were invited to participate in the annual information retrieval, topic detection and tracking, automatic content extraction, and machine translation evaluations run by NIST. Cornell University, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley were given grants to work on TIDES.
Communicator was to develop “dialogue interaction” technology that enabled warfighters to talk with computers, such that information would be accessible on the battlefield or in command centers without ever using a keyboard-based interface . The Communicator Platform was to be both wireless and mobile, and to be designed to function in a networked environment.
The dialogue interaction software was to interpret the context of the dialogue in order to improve performance, and to be capable of automatically adapting to new topics so conversation could be natural and efficient. The Communicator program emphasized task knowledge to compensate for natural language effects and noisy environments. Unlike automated translation of natural language speech, which is much more complex due to an essentially unlimited vocabulary and grammar, the Communicator program is directed task specific issues so that there are constrained vocabularies (the system only needs to be able to understand language related to war). Research was also started to focus on foreign language computer interaction for use in supporting coalition operations.
Human Identification at a Distance
The Human Identification at a Distance (HumanID) project developed automated biometric identification technologies to detect, recognize and identify humans at great distances for “force protection”, crime prevention, and “homeland security/defense” purposes.
The goals of HumanID were to:
- Develop algorithms for locating and acquiring subjects out to 150 meters (500 ft) in range.
- Fuse face and gait recognition into a 24/7 human identification system.
- Develop and demonstrate a human identification system that operates out to 150 meters (500 ft) using visible imagery.
- Develop a low power millimeter wave radar system for wide field of view detection and narrow field of view gait classification.
- Characterize gait performance from video for human identification at a distance.
- Develop a multi-spectral infrared and visible face recognition system.
A number of universities were included to assist in designing certain areas of HumanID. The Georgia Institute of Technology‘s College of Computing focused on gait recognition. Gait recognition was key component of HumanID, because it could be employed on low-resolution video feeds and therefore help to identify subjects at a distance. They planned on developing a system that recovered static body and stride parameters of subjects as they walked, while also looking into the ability of time-normalized joint angle trajectories in the walking plane as a means of recognizing gait. The university also did related work in locating and tracking faces with expressions and speech.
Carnegie Mellon University‘s Robotics Institute (part of the School of Computer Science) worked on dynamic face recognition. The research focused primarily the extraction of body biometric features from video and identifying subjects from the extracted body biometric features. To conduct its studies, the university created databases of synchronized multi-camera video sequences of body motion, human faces under a wide range of imaging conditions, AU coded expression videos, and hyperspectal and polarimetric images of human faces. The video sequences of body motion data consisted of six separate viewpoints of 25 subjects walking on a treadmill. Four separate 11-second gaits were tested for each: slow walk, fast walk, inclined, and carrying a ball.
The University of Maryland‘s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies’ research focused on the recognition of an individual at a distance through gait and face information. Also to be utilized were infrared and 5-degree-of-freedom cameras. Test conducted included filming 38 male and 6 female subjects of different ethnicity and physical features walking along a T-shaped path from various angles.
The University of Southampton‘s Department of Electronics and Computer Science was developing an “Automatic Gait Recognition” system and was in charge of compiling a database to test it. The University of Texas at Dallas was compiling a database to test facial systems. The data included a set of nine static pictures taken from different viewpoints, a video of each subject looking around a room, a video of the subject speaking, and one or more videos of the subject showing facial expressions. Colorado State University developed multiple systems for identification via facial recognition. Columbia University participated in implementing HumanID in poor weather.
The Bio-Surveillance project was designed to predict and respond to bioterrorism by monitoring non-traditional data sources such as animal sentinels, behavioral indicators, and pre-diagnostic medical data. It would leverage existing disease models, identify abnormal health early indicators, and mine existing databases to determine the most valuable early indicators for abnormal health conditions.
Scope of surveillance
As a “virtual, centralized, grand database”, the scope of surveillance includes, among others, credit card purchases, magazinesubscriptions, web browsing histories, phone records, academic grades, bank deposits, gambling histories, passport applications, airline and railway tickets, driver’s licenses, gun licenses, toll records, judicial records, divorce records, etc.
The Genisys component of TIA, in addition to integrating and organizing separate databases, was to run an internal “Privacy Protection Program.” This was intended to restrict analysts’ access to irrelevant information on private U.S. citizens, enforce privacy laws and policies via software mechanisms, and report misuse of data. There were also plans for TIA to have an application that could “anonymize” data, so that information could be linked to an individual only through a court order (especially for medical records gathered by the Bio-Surveillance project). A set of audit logs were to be kept, which would keep track of whether innocent Americans’ communications were getting caught up in relevant data.
The term “total information awareness” was first coined at the annual DARPAtech conference of 1999 in a presentation by the deputy director of the Office of Information Systems Management, Brian Sharkey. Sharkey applied the phrase to a conceptual method by which the government could sift through massive amounts of data becoming available via digitization and draw important conclusions.
TIA was proposed as program shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001 by Rear Admiral John Poindexter. A former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a key player in the Iran–Contra affair, he was working with Syntek Technologies, a company often contracted out by the government for work on defense projects. TIA was officially commissioned during the 2002 fiscal year. Poindexter was appointed Director of the newly created Information Awareness Office division of DARPA in January 2002, which managed TIA’s development. The office temporarily operated out of the fourth floor of DARPA’s headquarters, while Poindexter looked around for a place which could permanently house TIA’s researchers. Soon Project Genoa was successfully completed and its research moved on to Genoa II.
Late that year, the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) was awarded a $19 million contract by the Information Awareness Office to develop the “Information Awareness Prototype System”, the core architecture to integrate all of TIA’s information extraction, analysis, and dissemination tools. This was done through its consulting arm, Hicks & Associates, which employed many former Department of Defense and military officials.
The earliest version of TIA employed a software called Groove, which had been developed in 2000 by Ray Ozzie. Groove made it possible for analysts from many different government agencies to share intelligence data instantly, and it linked specialized programs that were designed to look for patterns of suspicious behavior.
Congressional restrictions and termination
On 24 January 2003, the United States Senate voted to limit the TIA program by restricting its ability to gather information from emails and the commercial databases of health, financial and travel companies. According to the Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-7, Division M, § 111(b) passed in February, the Department of Defense was given 90 days to compile a report laying out a schedule of TIA’s development and the intended use of allotted funds or face a cutoff of support.
The report arrived on May 20. It disclosed that the program’s computer tools were still in their preliminary testing phase. Concerning the pattern recognition of transaction information, only synthetic data created by researchers was being processed. The report also conceded that a full prototype of TIA wasn’t scheduled to be ready until the 2007 fiscal year. Also in May, Total Information Awareness was renamed Terrorism Information Awareness in an attempt to stem the flow of criticism on its information gathering practices on average citizens.
At some point in early 2003, the National Security Agency began installing access nodes on TIA’s classified network. The NSA then started running stacks of emails and intercepted communications through TIA’s various programs.
On September 30, 2003, Congress officially cut off funding for TIA and the Information Awareness Office (with the Senate voting unanimously against it) because of its unpopular perception with the general public and the media. The effort was led by Senators Ron Wyden and Byron L. Dorgan.
Reports began to emerge in February 2006 that TIA’s components had been transferred to the authority of the National Security Agency. In the Department of Defense appropriations bill for the 2004 fiscal year, a classified annex provided the funding. It was stipulated that the technologies were limited for military or foreign intelligence purposes against non-U.S. citizens. Most of the original project goals and research findings were preserved, but the privacy protection mechanics were abandoned.
Genoa II, which focused on collaboration between machines and humans, was renamed “Topsail” and handed over to the NSA’s Advanced Research and Development Activity, or ARDA (ARDA was later moved to the Director of National Intelligence‘s control as the Disruptive Technologies Office). Tools from the program were utilized in the war in Afghanistan and in other efforts as part of the War on Terror. In October 2005, the SAIC signed a $3.7 million contract for work on Topsail. In early 2006 a spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory said that Topsail was “in the process of being canceled due to lack of funds.” When inquired about Topsail in a Senate Intelligence Committeehearing that February, both National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and FBI Director Robert Mueller said they didn’t know about the program’s status. Negroponte’s deputy, former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden said, “I’d like to answer in closed session.”
The Information Awareness Prototype System was reclassified as “Basketball” and work on it continued by SAIC, supervised by ARDA. As far in as September 2004, Basketball was fully funded by the government and being tested in a research center jointly run by ARDA and SAIC. As of 2006, it was unknown whether this research persisted.
Critics allege that the program could be abused by government authorities as part of their practice of mass surveillance in the United States. In an op-ed for The New York Times, the American author William Safire called it “the supersnoop’s dream: a Total Information Awareness about every U.S. citizen.”
The American Civil Liberties Union launched a campaign to terminate the full implementation of Total Information Awareness, claiming that if implemented, it would “kill privacy in America” because “every aspect of our lives would be catalogued”. The San Francisco Chronicle criticized the program for “Fighting terror by terrifying U.S. citizens”.
In popular culture
In the 2008 British television series The Last Enemy, Total Information Awareness (TIA) is portrayed as a UK-based surveillance database that can be used to track and monitor anybody effectively by putting all available government information in one place.
- Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-7, Division M, § 111(b)
- Report to Congress Regarding the Terrorism Information Awareness Program
- Weinberger, Sharon (24 January 2008). “Defence research: Still in the lead?”. Nature. Nature Publishing Group. pp. 390–393. doi:10.1038/451390a. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
Poindexter and his office proved to be more polarizing than expected; its Total Information Awareness programme (later changed to Terrorism Information Awareness), which aimed to sift through huge amounts of data to track terrorists, was attacked on privacy grounds, and Congress eventually cancelled it. “That was a dishonest misuse of DARPA,” says Hans Mark, a former director of defense research and engineering now at the University of Texas at Austin.
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The most widely reported data-mining project — the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) program — was shut down by Congress because of widespread privacy fears. The project sought to use credit-card, medical and travel records to search for terrorists and was dubbed by privacy advocates as a “supersnoop” system to spy on Americans.
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On the Web site of this particular program, the Total Information Awareness Program, they cite a Latin slogan — “Knowledge is power” — something we would all agree with, and state: The total information awareness of transnational threats requires keeping track of individuals and understanding how they fit into models. To this end, this office would seek to develop a way to integrate databases into a “virtual centralized grand database.” They would be in a position to look at education, travel, and medical records, and develop risk profiles for millions of Americans
- Pat M. Holt (October 2, 2003). “Driving dangerously with the Patriot Act”. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
The Defense Department is leading the charge for what it calls Total Information Awareness, a massive database including DNA.
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