Conspiracy theorists, fire up your browsers.Millions of JetBlue passenger records were used to test out an Army program that could be a first cousin of the notorious Total Information Awareness uber-database.Last week, defense contractor Torch Concepts came under heavy scrutiny after Wired News revealed that the company had crunched fliers' private data without their knowledge.On Monday, Army spokesman Maj. Gary Tallman said that Torch used the information to run a prototype data-mining system. The project was designed to screen out terrorists who might want to infiltrate or attack Army bases.According to a corporate press release from May 8, 2002, the Torch-built system would identify "abnormal events or activities that may include rebel actions before damaging events occur." To do this, the contractor would apply "intelligent pattern recognition in identifying latent relationships and behaviors that may help point to potential terrorist threats."To privacy advocates, that sounds a lot like TIA's mission of uncovering "indications of terrorist activities in vast quantities of transaction data."Lee Tien, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said, "This looks and feels like the data Valdez."THERE'S MORE: The Associated Press is reporting that a "group of passengers has sued JetBlue Airways Corp. for passing their personal information to a Defense Department contractor.""The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that they had opened investigations into the move," according to CBS News.AND MORE: A New York Times editorial says that "plenty of questions remain unanswered about this espisode and about the real extent of government involvement. A Congressional inquiry may be appropriate, given the scope of the Bush administration's ambitions regarding surveillance."AND MORE: Despite the privacy flap, JetBlue's stock is at its highest levels in years, notes Defense Tech pal KK."People are such freakin' sheep," he says. "They'll keep flying Big Bro Airways, personal freedoms be damned."
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