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EPIC Analysis of Total Information Awareness Contractor Documents
February 2003


     This is the first release of documents obtained by EPIC about the Total Information Awareness program following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Defense Department. EPIC v. Department of Defense, No. 02-1233 (D.C. Dist. Ct. 2002).

     The Department of Defense attempted to block the public release of these documents by imposing unprecedented fees on EPIC, a public interest research organization. EPIC challenged the fee determination, and a federal district court ruled for EPIC and against the Department of Defense. The court held that EPIC is entitled to "preferred fee status" under the FOIA and ordered the Pentagon to "expeditiously" process EPIC's almost year-old request for information concerning Admiral John Poindexter and the Information Awareness Office.

     After the decision EPIC held discussions with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to streamline the document processing. EPIC anticipates receiving more documents covering various aspects of DARPA's data mining activities and the Total Information Awareness program over the next few months. These documents will be made available by EPIC as they are received.


     This first batch of documents are letters from Admiral Poindexter to various companies who submitted projects for grants under DARPA's solicitation notice, BAA-02-08, which was published on March 21, 2002. BAA-02-08 is a solicitation notice covering the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program and states that:

DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals in the area of information technologies that will aid in the detection, classification, identification, and tracking of potential foreign terrorists, wherever they may be, to understand their intentions, and to develop options to prevent their terrorist acts. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, technology or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.

     Companies were given the opportunity to submit their proposals for evaluation. There are several rounds of evaluations and DARPA stops accepting proposals on March 21, 2003. The letters are DARPA's responses, stating either approval or rejection of the research project. The letters provide information on the contractors, their project title, and the government contact for the project, if it met with DARPA approval.

     The documents do not show how much funding the proposal received. The "Broad Agency Announcement" (or "BAA") notes that most proposals should anticipate receiving between $200,000 – 1 million per year. Of the 180, there are 26 approval letters. The most recent letter released is dated December 4, 2002. The list of contractors who sought funding range from large corporation, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, to small technology start-ups and and large research universities.

     The proposal control number noted in the approval letter's reference line appears to indicate the technical topic areas under the BAA. For example, Hicks & Associates were granted funding for "Information Awareness Prototype System Development" and their proposal control number is 3.09. Alphatech, Inc. was granted funding for "Extensible Probablistic Repository Technology" and their number is 1.01. See table for more information on other approved contractors. The three topic areas are:

     1. Repository technologies

     This is described by the BAA as the "Development of revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories and associated privacy protection technologies." The notice describes the storage technology issues in more detail:

The National Security Community has a need for very large scale databases covering comprehensive information about all potential terrorist threats; those who are planning, supporting or preparing to carry out such events; potential plans; and potential targets. In the context of this BAA, the term "database" is intended to convey a new kind of extremely large, omni-media, virtually-centralized, and semantically-rich information repository that is not constrained by today's limited commercial database products -- we use "database" for lack of a more descriptive term. DARPA seeks innovative technologies needed to architect, populate, and exploit such a database for combating terrorism.

The technologies, as conceived by the BAA, also include:

Technologies for controlling automated search and exploitation algorithms and for purging data structures appropriately. Business rules are required to enforce security policy and views appropriate for the viewer's role. The potential sources of information about possible terrorist activities will include extensive existing databases. Innovative technologies are sought for treating these databases as a virtual, centralized, grand database.

     2. Collaboration, Automation and Cognitive Aids technologies

     This is described as "Development of collaboration, automation, and cognitive aids technologies that allow humans and machines to think together about complicated and complex problems more efficiently and effectively." DARPA is seeking technologies that would:

[A]id the human intellect as teams collaborate to build models of existing threats, generate a rich set of threat scenarios, perform formal risk analysis, and develop options to counter them. These tools should provide structure to the collaborative cognitive work, and externalize it so that it can be examined, critiqued, used to generate narrative and multi-media explanations, and archived for re-use.

     3. Prototype System technologies

     This is the most significant focus of the Total Information Awareness program and is described in the BAA as:

Development and implementation of an end-to-end, closed-loop prototype system to aid in countering terrorism through prevention by integrating technology and components from existing DARPA programs such as: Genoa, EELD (Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery), WAE (Wargaming the Asymmetric Environment), TIDES (Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization), HID (Human Identification at Distance), Bio-Surveillance; as well as programs resulting from the first two [topic] areas of this BAA and other programs.

     According to BAA-02-08 the main focus of the TIA program is to build "usable tools, rather than demonstrations." The notice states that, "The idea is to enable our partners in the intelligence community to evaluate new technology and pick it up for experimental use and transition, as appropriate." The third topic area appears to be aimed at creating the experimental "leave behind prototypes" that the research project aims to create.


     The government contacts indicate potential users or developers of the TIA technology. The contacts are from three branches of the Defense Department: the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR), and DARPA Information Awareness Office itself. In addition, funding for three approved projects comes from the Information Exploitation Office of DARPA. The Air Force Research Laboratory's "Information Directorate" based in Rome, NY was developing elements of TIA technology under Douglas Dyer, who has now moved to DARPA and is also the author of BAA-02-08. The Navy's SPAWAR program also appears interested in developing large-scale repository and data mining capabilities. It is not clear how these technologies might be useful for the Air Force and Navy in their respective "battlespaces" that they operate in and why they are funding the development of domestic surveillance infrastructure.

For more information, see EPIC's Total Information Awareness page.

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