[govinfo] GovInfo News - 10-20-06

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "FOI-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" <FOI-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2006 13:40:37 -0400

- Agency explores "new" tool - Tangram - to connect intelligence dots
- Former White House chief thinks privately-purchased notebook not a 'record'
- FEMA signing statement
- Why Is Congress Even Bothering To Pass Laws?

Patrice McDermott, Director
202-332-OPEN (6736)


By Shane Harris, National Journal
The government's top intelligence agency is building a computerized system to 
search very large stores of information for patterns of activity that look like 
terrorist planning. The system, which is run by the Office of the Director of 
National Intelligence, is in the early research phases and is being tested, in 
part, with government intelligence that may contain information on U.S. 
citizens and other people inside the country. It encompasses existing profiling 
and detection systems, including those that create "suspicion scores" for 
suspected terrorists by analyzing very large databases of government 
intelligence, as well as records of individuals' private communications, 
financial transactions, and other everyday activities.
The details of the program, called Tangram, are contained in an unclassified 
document that National Journal obtained from a government contracting Web site. 
The document, called a "proposer's information packet," is a technical 
description of Tangram written for potential contractors who would help design 
and test the system. The document was written by officials in the 
research-and-development section of the national intelligence office. A tangram 
is an old Chinese puzzle that takes seven geometric shapes -- five triangles, a 
square, and a parallelogram -- and rearranges them into different pictures.
...the document offers a rare and surprisingly candid analysis of intelligence 
agencies' fits and starts -- and failures -- in other efforts to profile 
terrorists through data mining: Researchers, for example, haven't moved beyond 
"guilt-by-association models" that link suspected terrorists to other, 
potentially innocent people, and then rank the suspects by level of suspicion.
"To date, the predominant approaches have used a guilt-by-association model to 
derive suspicion scores," the Tangram document states. "In the cases where we 
have knowledge of a seed entity [a known person] in an unknown group, we have 
been very successful at detecting the entire group. However, in the absence of 
a known seed entity, how do we score a person if nothing is known about their 
associates? In such an instance, guilt-by-association fails."
Intelligence and privacy experts who reviewed the document said that it 
reaffirms their long-held belief that many computerized terrorist-profiling 
methods are largely ineffective. It also raises significant privacy concerns, 
because to distinguish terrorists from innocent people, a system that's as 
broad as Tangram purports to be would require access to many databases that 
contain private information about Americans, the experts said, including credit 
card transactions, communications records, and even Internet purchases.
In February, National Journal revealed that names of component TIA programs 
were simply changed and transferred to a research-and-development unit 
principally overseen by the National Security Agency. The unit, now under the 
control of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, also runs 
The Tangram document cites several TIA programs -- by their new names -- as 
forming the latest phase of research upon which Tangram will build. In a 
prepared statement, the intelligence director's office said, "Tangram is 
addressing the problem that the intelligence community receives vast amounts of 
data a day and there are a wide variety of algorithms -- mathematical 
procedures -- for figuring out what is relevant. Different algorithms serve 
different purposes, but we believe that combining them will provide us new 
insights in detecting terrorist plans and activities. The project will allow 
analysts to mix and match various methods to connect the dots."

October 10, 2006
By Alexis Simendinger, National Journal
Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card sought to circumvent the 
Presidential Records Act -- which has governed the ownership of presidential 
and vice presidential records since President Nixon's shootout over the White 
House tapes -- by keeping a secret record of top government jobs paired with 
running lists of possible replacements.

Card ... described his "hit-by-a-bus" workbook to journalist Bob Woodward. He 
said he kept a roster of qualified candidates in a blue spiral notebook that he 
purchased himself, "so it wouldn't be considered a government document or 
presidential record that might someday be opened to history," according to 
Woodward's latest book, State of Denial. Although Card imagined his notebook 
would be for his eyes only, he revealed its existence to Woodward, adding that 
his list of possible replacements for controversial Defense Secretary Donald 
Rumsfeld ran to 11 names.

Experts in the legalities and mechanics of maintaining presidential records 
consulted by National Journal challenged Card's interpretation. Whether Card 
used a dime-store notebook or cocktail napkins, or believed his notebook was 
personal rather than government property, such qualifiers were irrelevant to 
the document's definition as a presidential record that should be preserved and 
archived for historical purposes.

"In this case, it was a conscious effort to try to get around the statute," 
said Scott Nelson, senior attorney with the Public Citizen Litigation Group. 
The idea that a notebook purchased privately might serve as a shield from the 
law "is just ridiculous," Nelson added, because of Card's own description of 
how he intended to use his personnel lists. "The definition of presidential 
records includes documents created by members of the president's immediate 
staff for the purposes of carrying out their official duties."


UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
Bush signed the [Homeland Security Appropriations Act, part of which enacted a 
whole-scale restructuring of FEMA -- and the Department of Homeland Security, 
into which it was rolled in March 2003 -- in response to the agency's widely 
panned performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last year] at a 
high-profile media event in Scottsdale, Ariz., Oct. 4, saying it would help the 
United States "better respond to emergencies and natural disasters by 
strengthening the capabilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

But the signing statement, released quietly several hours later, maintains that 
nearly 40 provisions of the law, including those regarding the FEMA 
administrator, are unconstitutional restrictions on the prerogatives of the 
executive branch.
The provision on the administrator's direct line to Congress, the signing 
statement says, "purports to ... limit supervision of an executive branch 
official in the provision of advice to the Congress."

The statement says the law will be construed "in a manner consistent with the 
constitutional authority of the president to ... supervise the unitary 
executive branch," meaning the agency will have to "ensure that any reports or 
recommendations submitted to the Congress are subjected to appropriate 
executive branch review and approval before submission."
The minimum qualifications provision, the signing statement says, "purports to 
limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may 
select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those 
persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

Posted by Diane E. Dees on 10/19/06 at 12:06 PM MoJo Blog

George W. Bush has already made it clear that he may ignore parts of the 2007 
Defense Authorization Act. To be exact, he has listed two dozens provisions in 
the act which he may trash, including the budget requirements for the wars in 
both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush made his stand Tuesday in one of his now-famous "signing statements," 
which the White House maintains are not unlike other presidential signing 
statements, but which are, in fact, completely different. Instead of making 
notes about his personal interpretations of some laws, Bush has used the 
signing statement to eliminate parts of laws, or the spirit of entire laws, 
that he does not like.

Bush's objections include:
. A requirement that he name a "coordinator of policy on North Korea" within 60 
days, and submit within 90 days an updated intelligence assessment on Iran.
. A call for reports on subjects ranging from an early education program for 
military children to a study on assessing the safety of the nuclear stockpile.
. A response plan for remediation of unexploded ordnance, discarded military 
munitions, and munitions constituents.
. A report on a program for replacement of nuclear warheads on certain Trident 
sea-launched ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.
. Energy efficiency in weapons platforms.
. A report on participation of multinational partners in the United Nations 
Command in the Republic of Korea.
. A report on the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
. Quarterly reports on Department of Defense response to threat posed by 
improvised explosive devices.
. A National Academy of Sciences study of quantification of margins and 
uncertainty methodology for assessing and certifying the safety and reliability 
of the nuclear stockpile.


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