on information from a wide array of data sources, social-network analysis tools to understand linkages and organizational structures, data-sharing in support of decision-making, and language-translation and information-visualization tools. A technical description of the system stressed the importance of using real data and real operational settings that were complex and huge.3

The TIA program sought to pursue important research questions, such as how data mining techniques might be used in national-security investigations and how technological approaches might be able to ameliorate the privacy impact of such analysis. For example, in a speech given in August 2002, John Poindexter said that4

IAO [Information Awareness Office] programs are focused on making Total Information Awareness—TIA—real. This is a high level, visionary, functional view of the world-wide system—somewhat over simplified. One of the significant new data sources that needs to be mined to discover and track terrorists is the transaction space. If terrorist organizations are going to plan and execute attacks against the United States, their people must engage in transactions and they will leave signatures in this information space. This is a list of transaction categories, and it is meant to be inclusive. Currently, terrorists are able to move freely throughout the world, to hide when necessary, to find sponsorship and support, and to operate in small, independent cells, and to strike infrequently, exploiting weapons of mass effects and media response to influence governments. We are painfully aware of some of the tactics that they employ. This low-intensity/low-density form of warfare has an information signature. We must be able to pick this signal out of the noise. Certain agencies and apologists talk about connecting the dots, but one of the problems is to know which dots to connect. The relevant information extracted from this data must be made available in large-scale repositories with enhanced semantic content for easy analysis to accomplish this task. The transactional data will supplement our more conventional intelligence collection.

Nevertheless, authoritative information about the threats of interest to the TIA program is scarce. In some accounts, TIA was focused on a generalized terrorist threat. In other informed accounts, TIA was premised on the notion of protecting a small number of high-value targets in the United States, and a program of selective hardening of those targets


Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA), Total Information Awareness Program System Description Document, version 1.1, DARPA, Arlington, Va., July 19, 2002.


J. Poindexter, Overview of the Information Awareness Office, Remarks prepared for DARPATech 2002 Conference, Anaheim, Calif., August 2, 2002, available at http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/poindexter.html.

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