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THE NATION

Senate Action Puts Surveillance of Databases by Pentagon in Doubt

January 25, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert raised doubts Friday about the fate of a Pentagon surveillance project after the Senate voted to ban the technology that mines government and commercial databases to identify potential terrorists.

Hastert (R-Ill.) is concerned about the privacy implications of the research program, called Total Information Awareness, said his spokesman, Pete Jeffries. Jeffries said it is unclear who will fight for the project when House and Senate lawmakers meet next month to decide its future.

"Its fate is questionable," Jeffries said.

The Pentagon was building a system that could scour government and commercial information -- including purchase records -- for clues of terrorism.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Don Sewell, a Pentagon spokesman, said the program "will develop innovative information technology tools that will give the Department of Defense ... important capabilities to prevent terrorist attacks."

The project, launched after the Sept. 11 attacks, has been a public-relations disaster for the Bush administration, which has bristled at critics' privacy concerns.

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