Anti-terror program adds oversight amid outcries from watchdogs

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project was handed a revised logo and two oversight boards last week following intense pressure from a diverse coalition of interest groups.

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) project was handed a revised logo and two oversight boards last week following intense pressure from a diverse coalition of interest groups.

The project represents the Bush administration's attempt to catch terrorists by sifting through tens of millions of e-mails, health records, sales transactions, and other personal information both public and private.

But the project's launch last year mobilized a large swath of public interest groups in defense of privacy rights, informally known as the Left/Right Coalition. The loose-knit group first came together in unsuccessful opposition to the Patriot Act of 2001, and has spent past months lobbying and writing letters to stop the TIA.

In January, the Senate unanimously passed an amendment forcing the Pentagon to account for its new program.

"As it was originally envisioned by the Pentagon, the TIA would have the potential to be an unlimited government program, and we just couldn't abide by that," said Robert Fike, federal affairs manager with Americans for Tax Reform. "So we weighed in as heavily as we could, and fortunately we have won this victory."

In response to the amendment, the Pentagon announced on February 7 that it will establish internal and external advisory committees to ensure the TIA operates "in a manner consistent with US constitutional law."

It has also scrapped the original logo, an eyeball embedded in a pyramid keeping watch over the earth, in favor of one less likely to inspire paranoia - a pyramid with a ribbon running through it.

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