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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.

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