martha rosler on Wed, 13 Nov 2002 07:25:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Poindexter

re roya jokoby's post, i am reposting a nettime post from "chris,", but
this time with the entire article.

>geert wrote "Let's transform the new media buzz into something more
>interesting altogether - before others do it for us." how true, also
>because the become-minor-default may soon be more than a gateway to
>self-satisfactory protest. as seen in monday's wallstreet journal
>europe's page 1 coverage of bin ladens web operations in china - and
>today's washington post.
>To view the entire article, go to
>U.S. Hopes to Check Computers Globally
>By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
>A new Pentagon research office has started designing a global
>computer-surveillance system to give U.S. counterterrorism officials
>access to personal information in government and commercial databases
>around the world.
>The Information Awareness Office, run by former national security
>adviser John M. Poindexter, aims to develop new technologies to sift
>through "ultra-large" data warehouses and networked computers in search
>of threatening patterns among everyday transactions, such as credit card
>purchases and travel reservations, according to interviews and documents.
>Authorities already have access to a wealth of information about
>individual terrorists, but they typically have to obtain court approval
>  in the United States or make laborious diplomatic and intelligence
>efforts overseas. The system proposed by Poindexter and funded by the
>Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at about $200 million
>a year, would be able to sweep up and analyze data in a much more
>systematic way. It would provide a more detailed look at data than the
>super-secret National Security Agency now has, the former Navy admiral said.
How are we going to find terrorists and preempt them, except by following
their trail," said Poindexter,who brought the idea to the Pentagon after
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now is beginning to award
contracts to high-technology vendors.

  "The problem is much more complex, I believe, than we've faced before,"
he said. "It's how do we harness with technology the street smarts of
people on the ground, on a global scale."
 Although formidable foreign policy and privacy hurdles remain before any
prototype becomes operational, the initiative shows how far the government
has come in its willingness to use information technology and expanded
surveillance authorities in the war on terrorism.

 Poindexter said it will take years to  realize his vision, but the office has
 already begun providing some technology to government agencies. For
example, Poindexter recently agreed to help the FBI build its
data-warehousing system. He's also spoken to the Transportation Security
Administration about aiding its development of a massive
passenger-profiling system.

 In his first interview since he started the "information
awareness"program, Poindexter, who figured prominently in the Iran-contra
scandal more than a decade ago, said the systems under development would,
among other things, help
analysts search randomly for indications of travel to risky areas,
suspicious e-mails, odd fund transfers and improbable medical activity,
such as the treatments of anthrax sores.
              Much of the data would be collected
              through computer "appliances" --
              some mixture of hardware and
              software -- that would, with
              permission of governments and
              businesses, enable intelligence
              agencies to routinely extract

              Some specialists question whether
              the technology Poindexter envisions
              is even feasible, given the immense
              amount of data it would handle.
              Others question whether it is
              diplomatically possible, given the
              sensitivities about privacy around the
              world. But many agree, if
              implemented as planned, it probably
              would be the largest data-surveillance
              system ever built.

              Paul Werbos, a computing and artificial-intelligence
specialist at the National Science Foundation, doubted whether such
"appliances"can be calibrated to adequately filter out details about
innocent people that should not be in the hands of the government. "By
definition, they're going to send highly sensitive, private personal data,"
he said. "How many innocent people are going to get falsely pinged? How
many terrorists are going to slip through?"

              Former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a member of the U.S.
Commission on National Security/21st Century, said there's no question
about the need to use data more effectively. But he criticized the scope of
Poindexter's program, saying it is "total overkill of intelligence" and a
potentially "huge waste of money."
 "There's an Orwellian concept if I've ever heard one," Hart said when told
about the program.

              Poindexter said any operational system would include
safeguards to govern the collection of information. He said rules built
into the software would identify users, create an audit trail and govern
the information that is available. But he added that  his mission is to
develop the technology, not the policy. It would be up to Congress and
policymakers to debate the issue and establish the limits that would make
the system politically acceptable.

              "We can develop the best technology in the world and unless
there is public acceptance and understanding of the necessity, it will
never be implemented," he said. "We're just as concerned as the next person
with protecting privacy."
              Getting the Defense Department job is something of a comeback
for Poindexter. The Reagan administration national security adviser was
convicted in 1990 of five felony counts of lying to Congress, destroying
official documents and obstructing congressional inquiries into the
Iran-contra affair, which involved the secret sale of arms to Iran in the
mid-1980s and diversion of profits to help the contra rebels in Nicaragua.
              Poindexter, a retired Navy rear admiral, was the
highest-ranking Regan administration official found guilty in the scandal.
He was sentenced to six months in jail by a federal judge who called him
"the decision-making head" of a scheme to deceive Congress. The U.S. Court
of Appeals overturned that conviction in 1991,  saying Poindexter's rights
had been violated through the use of testimony he had given to Congress
after being granted immunity.
              In recent years, he has worked as a DARPA contractor at
Syntek Technologies Inc., an Arlington consulting firm that helped develop
technology to search through large  amounts of data. Poindexter now has a
corner office at a DARPA facility in Arlington. He still wears cuff links
with the White House seal and a large ring from the Naval Academy, where he
graduated at the top of his class in 1958.
              As Poindexter views the plan, counterterrorism officials will
use "transformational" technology to sift through almost unimaginably large
amounts of data, something Poindexter calls "noise," to find a discernable
"signal" indicating terrorist activity or planning. In addition to
gathering data, the tools he is trying to develop would give analysts a way
to visually represent what that information means. The system also would
include the technology to identify people at a distance, based on known
details about their faces and gaits.
             He cited the recent sniper case as an example of something
that would have benefited from such technology. The suspects' car, a 1990
Chevrolet Caprice, was repeatedly seen by police near the shooting scenes.
Had investigators been able to  know that, Poindexter said, they might have
detained the suspects sooner.
              The office already has several substantial contracts in the
works with technology vendors. They include Hicks & Associates Inc., a
national security consultant in McLean; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a
management and technology consultant in McLean; and Ratheon Corp., a
technology company that will provide search and  data-mining tools.
"Poindexter made the argument to the right players, so they asked him back
into the government," said Mike McConnell, a vice president at Booz Allen
and former director of the NSA.
              The office already has an emblem that features a variation of
the great seal of theUnited States: An eye looms over a pyramid and appears
to scan the world. The  motto reads: Scientia Est Potentia, or "knowledge
is power."

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