Udall Joins House Members to Block
Total Information Awareness Program
WASHINGTON (The New Mexican / February 12, 2003) - U.S. Representative
Tom Udall (D-NM) today joined a bipartisan effort to block the controversial
Total Information Awareness (TIA) project until Congress can review privacy
issues related to the plan. The TIA program - a wide-ranging Pentagon
monitoring scheme that critics say could threaten the civil liberties
of law-abiding Americans - aims to develop technology to collect information
on all financial transactions, travel, medical records and other activities
of all citizens of the United States.
Critics of the program have asked how much freedom Americans must give
up in the pursuit of potential terrorists - a debate over civil liberties
versus protecting the homeland.
Concerns also have been raised about the project's developer, Admiral
John Poindexter, the embattled Reagan national security adviser who was
indicted and sentenced for giving false testimony to Congress about his
role in the Iran-Contra scandal. His conviction was later overturned
on a technicality.
"The war on terrorism requires heightened vigilance against a wide
variety of threats. But this 'Big Brother' project, entrusted to a convicted
felon with an alarming record of sidestepping legal constraints, could
undermine the privacy of millions of Americans," Udall said. "We
need to strike a balance between targeting those who want to do us harm
and protecting the rights and freedoms cherished by Americans."
During debate on the fiscal year 2003 omnibus appropriations measure,
the U.S. Senate in January adopted an amendment to halt the TIA program.
This amendment prohibits funding for 60 days after enactment unless the
Department of Defense submits a report to Congress addressing a number
of concerns that Americans have expressed about the project.
"President Bush purportedly believes in smaller government, yet
this administration keeps proposing domestic spy programs that target
ordinary citizens. The Senate took an important first step last month
in reining in the Total Information Awareness program. Now the House
must complete the job by agreeing to the Senate's language when the omnibus
appropriations bill is finalized in the upcoming weeks," Udall concluded.