They Call It ‘Total Information Awareness’ (TIA)

Former navy admiral John Pondexter’s post-9/11 Genoa concept was the jumping off point for the enhancement of DAARPA’s TIA concept.

Genoa was originally conceived as a network of classified computer databases which would serve to identify potential terroristic activities through the acquisition of torrents of information on nearly every citizen in the U.S. as well as many abroad.

Among the TIA programs collaborating with this vision was the Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery (EELD) program, directed at aggregating “as much electronic information about people as possible – not just terror suspects but the general American public.”1

The informational targets under the scope of EELD would come to include “phone records, computer searches, credit card receipts, parking receipts, books checked out of the library, films rented”, virtually anything that could be of value in assisting the mission of TIA – to identify and obstruct potential terrorists .2

Other programs linked into DAARPA’s TIA concept were Scalable Social Network Analysis (SSNA) which monitored electronic communications, and Activity and Recognition Monitoring (ARM) would observe and assess, through many cameras and advanced facial recognition systems, the behavioral patterns of populations in order to determine whether their activities were outside of specified parameters – parameters which “remain classified”.3

As related by Annie Jacobsen, who covers much of DAARPA’s history in her book The Pentagon’s Brain, “[a]rtificially intelligent computers were the twenty-first century’s atomic bomb.”4 – a notion that attests to the novelty, sophistication, and secrecy of TIA. The Total Information Awareness program was seemingly gutted and disposed of in 2003 following the proliferation of news detailing its existence as an apparatus of public surveillance (which it was) that would cost in one year alone an estimated “$586.4 million”. But as reported by Jacobsen, the program continues to live on in the offices of the NSA, DHS, and CIA.5

Notes

  1. Jacobsen, A. (2015). The Pentagon’s Brain. p.340-350
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.
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