A Terror Tracking System By Any Other Name

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After attacks from civil liberties advocates on the left and the right, the Pentagon is planning to change a controversial system now being developed to hunt terrorists plotting attacks on the U.S. Change its name, anyway.

In a report to Congress expected May 20 and now being circulated to top Defense Department brass for comment, the Total Information Awareness program headed by controversial ex-Navy Admiral John Poindexter is slated to be re-named with the more narrowly-focused moniker Terrorist Information Awareness, sources in and outside the Pentagon tell TIME. Pentagon spokespeople declined comment on the plan or on what, if any, substantive changes might accompany a possible name-change.

In a recent congressional hearing, Tony Tether, head of the Pentagon agency that houses the program, said TIA would be operated with the expectation that "the American public and their elected officials must have confidence that their liberties will not be violated before they would accept this kind of technology."

Critics have said the program, as described by Poindexter at various points since its inception, could promote Big Brother-like government snooping on ordinary Americans as much as on terror suspects.

"We must become much more efficient and more clever in the ways we find new sources of data, mine information from the new and old, generate information, make it available for analysis, convert it to knowledge, and create actionable options," Poindexter said last year. Poindexter has been controversial for his role in the Reagan administration Iran-Contra scandal, which led to a 1990 conviction for providing false information to Congress, though that verdict was ultimately overturned in 1992.