NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nothing To Fear From Awareness Program

November 25, 2002

A great deal of misinformation is being put out regarding the federal government's Total Awareness Program, supporters say. Some fear the program being developed by former Reagan aide John Poindexter will snoop into everything from people's medical records to betting habits to credit card bills. In fact, experts say, only one group has anything to fear from it: terrorists.

  • The program will begin with intelligence reports about people already suspected of terrorist actions.
  • Those already identified as terrorists or potential terrorists by the intelligence community would then be monitored through existing private or public data bases to build an in-depth portfolio, including contracts and frequent activities.
  • These portfolios would enable authorities to determine whom to watch and where to find them when they suspect a terror strike could be imminent.
  • Even if they wanted to, the program's analysts wouldn't have time to delve into civilians' private habits, activities or even criminal records -- and indeed, Poindexter and his staff have concentrated on protecting privacy and civil liberties to the greatest extent possible.

Access to the information should be limited to those with proper clearance as well as need. The Genisys program, a component of the larger program, is being designed to separate identity information from transactions, and match the two up only when there is evidence and legal authority to do so.

That means the information will be available only to the CIA, FBI and the intelligence arm of the Department of Homeland Security -- not state and local law enforcement or those who wish to use it for aviation security or monitoring for epidemics and biological warfare.

Source: Michael Scardaville (Heritage Foundation), "Targeting Terrorism...Or Privacy?" Washington Times, November 25, 2002


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