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Office of Information Awareness to Close

WASHINGTON -- House and Senate negotiators have decided to close a Pentagon office that was developing a vast computerized terrorism surveillance system and bar spending that would allow those high-tech spying tools to be used against Americans on U.S. soil.
09:41 AM Sep. 25, 2003 PT

But they left open the possibility that some or all of the high-powered software tools under development might be employed by different government offices to gather foreign intelligence from foreigners, U.S. citizens aboard or foreigners in this country.

The controversial Terrorism Information Awareness program was conceived by retired Adm. John Poindexter and was run by the Information Awareness Office that he headed inside the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was developing software that could examine the computerized travel, credit, medical and other records of Americans and others around the world to search for telltale activities that might reveal preparations for a terrorist attack.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who has led a campaign against the program, hailed the result Wednesday. "Americans on American soil are not going to be targets of TIA surveillance that would have violated their privacy and civil liberties. The government is not going to be able to pick Americans up by their ankles and shake them to see if anything funny falls out," Wyden said in an interview.