National Journal: Total Information Awareness ‘Stopped In Name Only’

The National Journal has published a major expos© on Total Information Awareness, the controversial data mining program that Congress voted to terminate in 2003.

Earlier this month, ThinkProgress noted a Newsweek story reporting that “very quietly, the core of TIA survives with a new codename of Topsail.” The National Journal adds several new details to the picture.

The core components of TIA have been moved to the Advanced Research and Development Activity, housed at NSA headquarters. According to the Journal, “The names of key projects were changed, apparently to conceal their identities, but their funding remained intact, often under the same contracts.” Emails written by subcontractors working to design these components show that the program continues under the codename “Basketball”:

Congress’s decision to pull TIA’s funding in late 2003 “caused a significant amount of uncertainty for all of us about the future of our work,” Hicks executive Brian Sharkey wrote in an e-mail to subcontractors at the time. “Fortunately,” Sharkey continued, “a new sponsor has come forward that will enable us to continue much of our previous work.” Sources confirm that this new sponsor was ARDA. Along with the new sponsor came a new name. “We will be describing this new effort as ‘Basketball,’ ” Sharkey wrote, apparently giving no explanation of the name’s significance.

Also notable is testimony given earlier this month by National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. As we pointed out at the time, Negroponte claimed ignorance about the status of TIA:

WYDEN: Mr. Director, is it correct that when John Poindexter’s program, Operation Total Information Awareness, was closed, that several of Mr. Poindexter’s projects were moved to various intelligence agencies?

NEGROPONTE: I don’t know the answer to that question.

Today’s report suggests that answer was misleading at best. Not only does it appear that Negroponte was aware of the ongoing activities, his office will soon control them.

ARDA now is undergoing some changes of its own. The outfit is being taken out of the NSA, placed under the control of Negroponte’s office, and given a new name. … Officials with the intelligence director’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.