The Roots of Today’s Tyranny: Total Information Awareness

Freda-Digital-CreepsBy Derrick Broze

To understand the roots of the oppression, erosion of liberties, and invasion of privacy that has become the new norm for Americans, we must go back to the days following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was promising Americans that he would exact revenge on those who dare attack the empire. Dubya’s program of “Shock and Awe” gave the American public an upfront look at what the U.S. military was prepared to do to the enemies of “freedom and democracy.” The bombing of Iraq was only the beginning of a larger conflict that the Bush Administration dubbed “The Global War on Terror.”

The War on Terror did not end in the physical battlefield, however. The U.S. government was determined to root out all possible terrorist activity and in the process roll back as many of America’s hard-earned liberties as possible. Only 45 days after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Congress passed the infamous USA PATRIOT Act, typically known as simply the Patriot Act. The full Orwellian title is the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.”

The Patriot Act dramatically expanded the U.S. government’s abilities to monitor emails and landline phone calls, as well as also allowed access to voicemail through a search warrant rather than through a title III wiretap order. There is also section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been used to justify mass surveillance programs by the National Security Agency.

The Patriot Act also vastly increased the use of National Security Letters, a tool used by the government to force telecommunications companies to give customer information without the use of a warrant from a judge. The NSLs are typically issued by the FBI to gather information from companies when related to national-security investigations. This information can include customer names, addresses, phone and Internet records, and banking and credit statements. The NSL also requires employees who have been questioned to be silenced via a gag order which prevents them from notifying anyone that the government is invading customers’ privacy.

Interestingly, many Americans are unaware that the Patriot Act was in fact written before the attacks of 9/11 (see this and this). Not only was the bill written and ready to be released at the right moment, at least one of the bills which spawned the Patriot Act was written by Vice President Joe Biden while he was still a senator in Delaware. In 2008 CNET reported:

The Center for National Security Studies said (Biden’s) bill would erode “constitutional and statutory due process protections” and would “authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.”

Biden himself draws parallels between his 1995 bill and its 2001 cousin. “I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill,” he said when the Patriot Act was being debated, according to the New Republic, which described him as “the Democratic Party’s de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism.”

Biden’s chronology is not accurate: the bombing took place in April 1995 and his bill had been introduced in February 1995. But it’s true that Biden’s proposal probably helped to lay the groundwork for the Bush administration’s Patriot Act.

The advancing tyranny that has resulted from the Patriot Act, and the bills which preceded it, has led to what we see in America in 2016. The bulk of American communications are now scanned, monitored, stored in a database, and analyzed for signs of terrorism. The NSA has even built a giant database in Utah to handle all of this data. Big Brother and Big sister are listening through an array of devices. Cell site simulators aka stingrays, Automatic License Plate Readers, Audio recording devices aka gunshot detectors, hidden cameras and microphones in public, thermal imaging planes and drones.

While most Americans are familiar with the dangers and civil liberties violations of the Patriot Act, many may be ignorant to the other steps taken by the U.S. government in their misguided War on Terror. In January 2002, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency responsible for all of the exciting and terrifying emerging military technologies, established the Information Awareness Office (IAO). The creation of the IAO was to bring together several DARPA projects that focused on using surveillance and data mining to track and monitor terrorists and other threats to U.S. National Security.

In November 2002, the New York Times reported that DARPA was developing a classified tracking program called “Total Information Awareness” (TIA), which was intended to detect terrorists by studying millions of pieces of data. The program was designed to create huge databases to gather and store personal data from emails, social media, credit card records, phone calls, medical history, and online history, without the need for a search warrant. The program also featured a biometric component that could be seen as a predecessor to the current FBI biometric database. The Electronic Privacy Information Center said the goal of TIA was “to track individuals through collecting as much information about them as possible and using computer algorithms and human analysis to detect potential activity.”

The man behind TIA was Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, the former national security adviser in the Reagan administration, who was convicted in 1990 for his role in the Iran-contra affair. Poindexter’s conviction would later be overturned by a federal appeals court because he was granted immunity in exchange for testifying about his wrongdoing. Poindexter argued that the U.S. government must be granted even more powers than were given in the Patriot Act.

In 2002, The NY Times reported that Poindexter believes “the government needs to ‘break down the stovepipes’ that separate commercial and government databases, allowing teams of intelligence agency analysts to hunt for hidden patterns of activity with powerful computers.” Poindexter’s actions were criticized by many computer and security experts, including Barbara Simon, a computer scientist and past president of Association of Computing Machinery, who foreshadowed the coming Surveillance State with a warning that,”Once you’ve got it in place you can’t control it.”

“In some ways, Poindexter is the perfect Orwellian figure for the perfect Orwellian project,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University wrote for the LA Times in November 2002. “As a man convicted of falsifying and destroying information, he will now be put in charge of gathering information on every citizen. To add insult to injury, the citizens will fund the very system that will reduce their lives to a transparent fishbowl.”

Public criticism of the TIA would grow so loud that Congress was forced to defund the entire IAO in 2003. However, many Americans correctly suspected that the programs were still being developed, only under different names, using different agencies. This fact would later be confirmed by Edward Snowden’s surveillance leaks of 2013; however, for those paying close attention, it was known for at least 7 years before the Snowden leaks.

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In 2006, the National Journal obtained documents which they said proved that the TIA had been moved from DARPA to another group which focused on building spying technology for the National Security Agency. The Journal reported:

Two of the most important components of the TIA program were moved to the Advanced Research and Development Activity, housed at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., documents and sources confirm. One piece was the Information Awareness Prototype System, the core architecture that tied together numerous information extraction, analysis, and dissemination tools developed under TIA. The prototype system included privacy-protection technologies that may have been discontinued or scaled back following the move to ARDA.

The Journal outlines how the system was moved and renamed. In 2002 the consulting firm Hicks & Associates, reportedly run by former Defense and military officials, was awarded a $19 million contract to build the prototype for TIA. Internal emails obtained by the Journal show Hicks executive, Brian Sharkey, informing his employees of the name change. “We will be describing this new effort as ‘Basketball,’ ” Sharkey wrote. Another e-mail reminded the company’s staff that “TIA has been terminated and should be referenced in that fashion.”

The Journal also pointed out that another TIA project known as Genoa II was renamed Topsail and moved to ARDA. Genoa was focused on pre-empting crime, an early predecessor for pre-crime technologies. “As recently as October 2005, SAIC was awarded a $3.7 million contract under Topsail,” the Journal wrote.

When attempting to question the Senate Intelligence Committee about whether or not the TIA’s programs were simply renamed and moved, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and FBI Director Robert Mueller that they didn’t know. However, Negroponte’s deputy, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, said, “I’d like to answer in closed session.” Hayden would go on to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and director of the NSA among other spy agencies.

Finally, in 2013, even the magazine Scientific American was forced to acknowledge that the Total Information Awareness never ended. Edward Snowden had made it perfectly clear by that point that Americans are living in a Surveillance State. In fact, in an interview with WIRED, intelligence analyst James Bamford said the NSA’s $2 billion facility in Utah “is, in some measure, the realization of the ‘total information awareness’ program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.”

Welcome to the Age of Total Information Awareness. A place where free people of the world voluntarily give up what little bit of privacy they maintain via social media tags, check ins, and constant self-surveillance. If you care about privacy (and you should if you care about freedom) then it’s time to start openly resisting the prying eyes and ears of the State and begin investing in new technologies that can disrupt the spying and protect our private lives.

Read Part 2 of this series as we look at the history of the Patriot Act II.

Image Credit: Anthony Freda Art

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for and the founder of the Follow him on Twitter.

Derrick is available for interviews.

This article may be freely reposted in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

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9 Comments on "The Roots of Today’s Tyranny: Total Information Awareness"

  1. okey-dokey, I’ll spend the rest of the week openly resisting them. Ummm… I could use cash for all my purchases, except rental cars, hotel rooms, and anuncomfortable additional assortment of products and services nowadays whose purchase is better secured by the use of credit cards’ guarantees. Also, I could drive around with na wad of cash, but every police camera in town – and there’s lots of them here in Bullhead City, Arizona – would track my every move, and although I haven’t known of any local law enjforcement practises of asset forfeiture, we certainly know that traversing this Land Of The Free across numerous state lines puts you in significant jeopardy of grand theft auto & bank accounts.

  2. Article is spot on, but like all articles from activists completely ignores the elepphant in the room and wha’t really under the iceberg. Completely ignoring what’s been going on in secret for over a decade. They have never been “innocently” spying on us illegally for years all for our protection or to keep us safe. They have been murdering, framing, blacklisting, and covering-up all the crimes they have been committing. Some call it Cointelpro2.0, others call it gangstalking, but it needs to be called for what it really is and that’s covert state sponsored terrorism identical to what any totalitarian police state from history has done to it’s citizens. No different from a modern day country like China while we run around the world talking about exceptionalism, freedom and rights. We have mastered the art of Zersetzung and learned how to hide it while scrubbing the evidence or eliminating any whistleblower from coming forward so it will never be made public.
    Secret courts, secret evidence, secret trials, secret letters, secret contracts, secret prisons…. ALL hallmarks of a rogue secret government which has overthrown any law or Constitution and operating like the Stasi, but much, much worse. It’s worse as it’s not only the rogue government and it’s various agencies, but corporations working hand in hand to commit terrorism against citizens in secret. Secret contracts with corporations to use thier products against the citizens. Covert jetliners with corporation logos of Southwest and various other entities. All attached with high-tech weapons designed for war and secretly flying over your community at every moment.
    Make no mistake, you are ALL under their list, your number just hasn’t been called yet as they secretly build a file on you just waiting to pull your number when you least expect it. In due time you too will be picked. Since anyone with brains by now knows you have a threat level assigned to you by apparently “angels of the state” who commit no crimes, has anyone ever asked the government what is their threat level to it’s citizens? To the Constitution?? “They” are just doing what they want in secret for years now while the brain dead public is still asking basic questions which they should have known over a decade ago. Still fighting to know what Stingray/Dirtbox is? Still begging the government to hand over documents which are redacted? It’s one part of a weapons system used to degrade and deny individuals from coming forward with these crimes including murder and terrorism. If you still think there is any political party or leader going to end this, you’re wrong and have no clue what has taken place. What was done and has taken place in secret was always intentional and the American people turned a blind eye to the horrors which will come, all which could have been stopped many years ago. All these systems were never designed to stop terrorism, they were designed to stop real freedom and you.

    • Kelly Rae Zimmerman | June 23, 2016 at 6:48 am | Reply

      Well, they are just trying to keep us safe from… umm, domestic terrorists an and violent right wing extremists.
      They need to be given the tools to do their job. You never know when those horrible Christin conservatives might try to force is into a theocracy. On another note, how does Hilary keep her skin so radiant and youthful looking? I wish I knew her secret! She looks like a goddess.

    • Fight: YOU are Right !! — The Technology and Personnel used by the Government under the GUISE of National Security is really being used by DHS Task Force Agencies and Contractors in order to Politically Target Citizens for Covert Criminal Operations, Burglaries,Vandalism, GangStalking, Mobbing, Psyops Harassment / Threat / Intimidation, Hate Crimes, Pet Torture as well as Framing For Crimes…….
      …..JUDI BARI of Earth First was only ONE POLITICALLY TARGETED ACTIVIST – INDIVIDUAL Who was Set Up and Framed by the Criminal, Covert Government involved in many different types of Organized Crimes against Citizens, as well as Black Ops Trafficking and Gang Activities.

    • Excellent post, friend. Pretty much covered it all. It won’t be easy to do much from this point either, I fear. I know I am being watched for sure. Anyone who comes to this site or similar will raise a red flag. They, of course, need to know who we are in advance of whats coming. If we are going to do anything it needs to be now; cant see it happening. GOD SPEED…

  3. CONgress is too p#ssy to actually follow the constitution. They have been usurped and their bank accounts padded whilst they pass these outside ‘the RULE of LAW’ enslaving legislation. They should all be fired and when TRUMP is elected they will be. Ever hear of a real audit.

  4. Public knowledge of intrusive surveillance implies a psyop/ limited hang out operation: we’re lead to believe we know the extent of government spying when the reality goes much further, but even our intentionally limited information puts us on notice, tends to quash dissent and constrain ambition.
    Subjects under investigation- in this case, the American people- aren’t typically informed they’re being surveilled unless there’s some desired outcome which would result from doing so.

  5. Good post…

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