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Web Sites Target Poindexter's Privacy

Internet activists concerned about the proposed data mining activities of the Pentagon's controversial Information Awareness Office (IAO) are targeting the privacy of the agency's director, Dr. John Poindexter.

The IAO is an agency of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. The goal of the agency is to gather intelligence on possible terrorist activities through electronic sources such as the Internet, telephone and fax lines.

Under Poindexter's leadership the IAO has created a firestorm of controversy with its Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, which seeks to capture the "information signature" of people in order to track potential terrorists and criminals. Critics have called it a domestic spy program and the Senate has temporarily blocked funding for the program.

Earlier this week, Poindexter again came under fire for the IAO's latest proposal to predict terrorist events through the online selling of "futures" in terrorist attacks. The Senate again intervened to block the program.

And now activists are tracking Poindexter, posting his personal information including his home phone number and information about his family. One site, Break Your Chains! even has a Join Poindexter sightings page that focuses on his buying habits (a hamster in February).

Another site, Here In Reality, profiles Poindexter as "America's Big Brother." Yet other sites show ways to find his Social Security number and photographs of Poindexter's neighborhood.

All the Poindexter scrutiny has forced him to change his telephone number and for the IAO to remove his biography from the agency's site. The agency has also removed its "Knowledge is Power" logo from the site.

The IAO did not return telephone inquiries from Internetnews.com for this story.

If ever enacted, TIA plans to track individuals through collecting as much information about them as possible and using computer algorithms and human analysis to detect potential criminal activity.

Driving the project will be "revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories," which would contain information from multiple sources to create a "virtual, centralized, grand database."

At the center of it all is Poindexter, a retired Navy admiral and former National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan. In 1990, Poindexter was convicted on five counts of deceiving Congress in the Iran-Contra affair and sentenced to six months in prison. The convictions were eventually overturned on the grounds that his immunized congressional testimony had been unfairly used against them.

After leaving the government, Poindexter joined Syntek Technologies, which worked with DARPA to develop an "information harvesting" search engine known as Genoa. Poindexter brought the Genoa concept with him to the IAO.