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Total Information Awareness funds blocked
Senate Blocks Funding for Pentagon Database
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saying they feared government snooping against ordinary Americans, U.S. senators voted on Thursday to block funding for a Pentagon computer project that would scour databases for terrorist threats. By a voice vote, the Senate voted to ban funding for the Total Information Awareness program, under former national security adviser John Poindexter, until the Pentagon explains the program and assesses its impact on civil liberties. The measure, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, also said the computer dragnet being developed could not be deployed without congressional approval, although it allowed exceptions for national security. It was tacked onto a spending package in the Senate, but it is not yet law. It is now expected to go to House and Senate negotiators. If the negotiators keep the provision in the spending package, it will advance to the House and Senate for final passage before going to the president for signing into law.

"This makes it clear that Congress wants to make sure there is no snooping on law-abiding Americans," Wyden told Reuters after the vote. He said the electronic data dragnet as proposed was "the most far-reaching government surveillance program in history." The Defense Department says the aim of the Total Information Awareness project, which is still in its infancy, is to seek patterns in transactions data like credit card bills and travel records to stop terrorist plots. Wyden and other Democrats announced last week they would try to block funding for it, citing concerns that it will amount to electronic surveillance of personal data of all Americans by the government and trample privacy rights.

posted by Hal 7:02 AM

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