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Tangram: Son of Total Information Awareness

Kurt Nimmo
Another Day In the Empire
Thursday, November 2, 2006

As usual, when it comes to surveillance and the panopticon state, the ACLU misses the point. In response to the discovery of the son of the Total Information Awareness, Tangram, described as “a program in which former TIA contractors build on existing TIA research to create a new, enhanced form of the program,” according to Justin Rood, the ACLU tells us the state is “misdirecting resources towards this kind of fanciful, science-fiction project… while neglecting the basics” of what Shaun Waterman of the UPI calls “good counter-terrorist detective work.”

In fact, since the vast majority of terrorists out there are working directly or indirectly for the Pentagon, CIA, MI6, or Mossad, no “good counter-terrorist detective work” is required. John Negroponte, CFR member and former overseer of the El Aguacate torture and murder dungeon in Honduras, now Director of National Intelligence, is building upon Iran-Contra criminal John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness, a “closed-loop” snoop system supposedly closed down on October 1, 2003.

Of course, cutting edge snoop technology and programs are never closed down and TIA lived on, thanks to the NSA under the classified annex to the 2004 DOD Appropriations Act. It now appears TIA finally surfaced in Negroponte’s office and is called Tangram. It is “a computer system capable of data-mining huge amounts of information about everyday events to discern patterns that look like terrorist planning,” although “officials have said it is being tested without using any data about Americans.”

Naturally, the truth is the exact opposite—the system is designed specifically to data-mine “huge amounts of information about everyday events to discern patterns that look like terrorist planning,” that is to say planning, or for that matter even discussion, by people opposed to the unitary decidership of Bush and the neocons.

In effect, according to the Air Force Materiel Command, Tangram compiles “a set of disjointed technologies that are difficult for non-technical users to apply, cumbersome to configure into a self-configuring, continuously operating system” and will, with enough money and jobbing out to the usual suspects (Booz Allen Hamilton, 21st Century Technologies, and SRI International) create “a fully automated, continuously operating, intelligence analysis support system” designed to snare terrorists, that is to say anybody who organizes against or merely talks about opposing our rulers.

Tangram “will also include ‘collective inferencing techniques’—a way of scoring whole populations on a kind of suspicion index,” according to Waterman of the UPI. In other words, if you are guilty of dissing Bush or Rumsfeld on MySpace or a far-flung forum, chances are your family, friends, and associates will be flagged as possible miscreants as well. “This technique is capable of making simultaneous inferences (scores) about large numbers of likely interrelated entities in large data collections,” although “for real intelligence analysis [this] is still a promise rather than a reality.” No doubt a few billion more pumped into “Federal Business Opportunities” pipeline will eventually cure this problem.

According to Shane Harris, writing for the National Journal, all of this “raises significant privacy concerns, because to distinguish terrorists from innocent people, a system that’s as broad as Tangram purports to be would require access to many databases that contain private information about Americans, the experts said, including credit card transactions, communications records, and even Internet purchases.”

Of course, such all-pervasive snooping is exactly the point.

“The Tangram document doesn’t mention privacy protections or a process for monitoring the system’s use to guard against abuse. In an interview, Tim Edgar, the deputy civil-liberties protection officer for the national intelligence director, said that Tangram ‘is a research-and-development program. We have been assured that it’s not deployed for operational use.’”

If you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you. It spans a gorgeous river in the Mojave Desert.

“Asked whether the intelligence used to test Tangram contains information about U.S. persons, defined as U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens, Edgar said, ‘It’s not being tested with any data that has unminimized information about U.S. persons in it.’ Minimization procedures are used by intelligence agencies to expunge people’s names from official reports and replace them with an anonymous designation, such as U.S. Person No. 1. Tangram is being tested ‘only with synthetic data or foreign-intelligence data already being used by analysts that meet Defense Department guidelines for handling of U.S. person information,’ Edgar said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence ‘has not funded and is not planning to fund any contracts for the Tangram program using unminimized data with U.S. persons in it,’ he said.”

In order to believe this, we would have to completely disregard Bush’s orders to eavesdrop on Americans without the usual requisite court warrants. In fact, Bush, that is to say the neocons, gave the order to snoop on Americans well before the events of nine eleven. “The NSA’s vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president,” writes Jason Leopold. “On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the [NSA] kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration… which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.”

According to Capitol Hill Blue’s sources, Bush told his new head of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, “to ‘take whatever steps necessary’ to monitor Americans 24/7 by listening in on their phone calls, bugging their homes and offices, probing their private lives, snooping into their financial records and watching their travel habits…. Hayden, who oversaw the National Security Agency’s questionable monitoring of phone calls and emails of Americas, plans to consolidate much of the country’s domestic spying into a new desk at the CIA, calling it a ‘domestic terrorism prevention’ operation. The desk will oversee not only NSA’s increased monitoring of electronic communications by Americans but also the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s ‘terrorist information awareness’ program that monitors travel and financial activities by Americans by gathering real-time data from banks, airlines, travel agencies and credit card companies.”

In short, this data will be rolled into Tangram and will be accessed by the CIA, even though the agency is supposedly forbidden by its charter from domestic snooping. Add to this NSA-CIA-FBI mix the Pentagon with its Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, and you have a recipe for robust police state surveillance.

Last October, the Senate Intelligence Committee “approved broad-ranging legislation…. that would allow the Pentagon and other U.S. intelligence agencies greater access to federal government databases on U.S. citizens, and another granting the DIA new exemptions from disclosing any ‘operational files’ under the Freedom of Information Act,” Newsweek reported.

In 1976, Morton Halperin, Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage, and Christine Marwick wrote in the introduction of the book, The Lawless State: The crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, “investigations have shown that every intelligence agency had one or more surveillance programs that spied on law-abiding American citizens, in violation of the laws, the Constitution, and the traditions of the country.”

The number of citizens who have been the objects of the professional voyeurs is truly staggering. The FBI headquarters in Washington alone has over 500,000 domestic intelligence files, each typically containing information on more than one group or individual. Nearly a quarter of a million first-class letters were opened and photographed by the CIA in the United States between 1953 and 1973 producing a computerized index of nearly one and one-half million names. The ClA’s six-year Operation CHAOS produced an index of 300,000 individuals. Uncounted millions of international telegrams and phone calls have been intercepted by the National Security Agency. Some 100,000 Americans are enshrined in Army intelligence dossiers. The Internal Revenue Service created files on more than 11,000 individuals and groups. During a three-year period, from 1971-74, political grand juries subpoenaed between 1,000 and 2,000 persons.

In addition, both at home and abroad, the intelligence agencies went beyond the mere collection of information. They developed programs to disrupt, “neutralize,” and destroy those perceived as enemies-as threats to the political order at home and abroad. The CIA’s covert action programs around the world were paralleled by the FBI’s COINTELPRO at home, by the misuse of the IRS and the grand jury-all were part of a purposeful effort to live up to the mandate of a classified report of the 1954 Hoover Commission on Government Organization that “we must learn to subvert, sabotage, and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those used against us.” Thus the illegalities exposed by the investigations were not isolated incidents of zealous agents exceeding their authority in the field, however frequently such may occur. Rather, the abuses were ongoing, bureaucratic programs, often continuing over decades, involving hundreds of officials, aimed at thousands of citizens, and ordered and approved at the highest level of the executive branch of government.

In the years since Halperin, Berman, Borosage, and Marwick wrote their book, computer technology has advanced exponentially, increasing the effectiveness and precision of the “professional voyeurs” to not only skulk through our houses, papers, and effects, but also “subvert, sabotage, and destroy” the opposition, an effort not yet in full motion as the neocons attempt to stack the deck by chipping away at the Bill of Rights and undermining habeas corpus. In the months ahead, as the dollar finally begins its precipitous decline and the neocons work toward realizing their “clash of civilizations” agenda, most notably against Iran, the destruction of the opposition will be “ordered and approved at the highest level of the executive branch of government,” now effectively a unitary decidership.

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