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
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
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
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
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.