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The Homeland Security Act

Bay State entities building record-tracking technology

(Business Today / March 7, 2003) - A handful of Massachusetts businesses are helping to develop a controversial Defense Department antiterrorism program that has been attacked by critics as an assault on individual privacy.

Lexington-based defense giant Raytheon Co., Woburn's Aptima Inc. and Burlington's AlphaTech Inc. have won Total Information Awareness project contracts. A handful of other local firms and universities bid unsuccessfully for work on the project.

Overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the project aims to develop technology to identify potential terrorists by looking through people's financial, travel, medical and other records.

Jan Walker, an agency spokeswoman, said Raytheon is working on ``integration,'' or bringing the various units of the project together into one functioning system. She would not say how much Raytheon is being paid.

Alphatech, she said, has a $1 million contract for two projects. The agency expects one of them, the Genisys project, to ``reinvent database technology.''

Congress threatened to pull the project's funding earlier this year, but instead let the work go forward pending a Pentagon report on a number of concerns by early spring. If the report is not made, funding will be stopped.

Congress also required the Pentagon to receive authorization from Congress before actually using the system. The massive database has raised fears among some that the government will amass Big Brother-like files on ordinary citizens.

As it stands, the project is moving ahead with $147 million in funding for fiscal 2003. The agency wants another $189 million for fiscal 2004.

Among those whose applications for work on the project were denied are: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Boston University; BBN Technologies, of Cambridge; Charles River Analytics Inc., of Cambridge; and Crystaliz Inc., of Concord.

Critics of the project have also attacked a new initiative of the Transportation Security Administration that will use personal information about air travelers to categorize their level of flight risk.

``Congress needs to look seriously at both of these programs,'' said Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Proponents have said the programs are necessary steps to fight terrorism in the post-9/11 world.

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