Wednesday, November 01, 2006

total information awareness

The award for scariest Halloween story goes to Schneier on Security, which is reporting that the DOD's Total Information Awareness project is back.  Like a character in a bad slasher flick, you just can't keep it down.  T.I.A. II, now a classified program called Tangram, "A Fully Automated, Continuously Operating, Intelligence Analysis Support System," actually returned in a DIA Presolicitation Notice on November 23, 2005.

Since this question often comes up in conversation, it seems fitting to address it here: why is this thing scary to honest citizens?  After all, if you don't plan to do anything illegal, what would you have to worry about?  The danger is that ordinary citizens don't get to define what is legal or illegal.  You can scrupulously avoid doing anything you would consider bad or wrong, but you can still wind up doing something illegal because someone else changes the definition of a crime to include whatever it is you're doing, or simply makes the definition fuzzy enough to plausibly cover you.  That someone else might be a political opponent (remember COINTELPRO?) or someone who just doesn't like you very much, say if you were Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other person was J. Edgar Hoover.

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