Getting to know you

With mild curiosity and a computer, you can 'mine data' on almost anyone

For the Record

January 26, 2003|By Sun Staff

Total Information Awareness: Is it efficient anti-terrorism or Big Brother come to life?

The experimental project -- a program of the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office, a part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- has drawn a lot of attention, both for its Orwellian overtones and the man in charge of it: retired rear admiral and Iran-contra figure John Poindexter.

The aim of the project, according to a recent report in The Sun, is a "global computer surveillance system that could sift through mountains of personal information in databases -- credit card purchases, telephone calls and e-mail, medical prescriptions, passports, driver's licenses, school records, magazine subscriptions, gun purchases -- to look for suspicious patterns and ultimately identify potential terrorists."

Security specialists say TIA, reportedly still years away from reality, could be crucial to identifying terrorists and preventing another Sept. 11. But privacy advocates and civil libertarians say TIA is the equivalent of domestic spying, a step toward the sort of surveillance society made famous in George Orwell's 1984.

The fact is, basic information about every American is already available via numerous databases, and it doesn't take too much "data mining" to find more than you might imagine about almost anyone. For instance: Poindex-ter himself. You might already know that he was first in his class at the Naval Academy in 1958 and that he was convicted of five counts in the Iran-contra arms deals back in 1990 (a conviction later overturned). But his mother's name? The assessed value of his house? The topic of his Ph.D. dissertation?

With a little digging, Sun news researcher Shelia Jackson found those things and more (such as his home address and phone number, which we will refrain from publishing). It may not be total information, but it's a reminder of just how much we can already find out about each other, if we want to know.


Name: John Marlan Poindexter

Date of birth: Aug. 12, 1936

Childhood residence: Odon, Ind.

Current residence: Rockville, Md. (bought house in 1971 for $42,000; 1999 assessed value was $269,700)


Mother: Ellen

Father: Marlan

Oldest of four children

Spouse: Linda Anne (Goodwin) Poindexter (born 1938)

Children: Daniel, Alan, Mark, Thomas, Joseph


1958: Graduated from U.S. Naval Academy (No. 1 in his class)

1959: Awarded Burke scholarship by the Navy to attend graduate school at California Insti-tute of Technology

1964: Graduated from Caltech with a doctorate (dissertation title: "Electronic Shielding by Closed Shells in Thulium Com-pounds").

Professional career

First assignment after Naval Academy: U.S. destroyer Holder

1966: Assistant to an assistant secretary of defense under Secretary Robert S. McNamara

1969: Second in command of a destroyer

1971: Began work as administrative aide to three secretaries of the Navy

1974: Assumed command of the guided missile cruiser England.

1976: Became executive assistant to Adm. J. L. Holloway III, chief of naval operations

1980: Promoted to rear admiral

1981: Began working as a military assistant on National Security council at the White House

October 1983: Became deputy national security adviser under Robert McFarlane

May 1985: Promoted to vice admiral

October 1985: Managed the interception of the EgyptAir plane carrying hijackers of the Achille Lauro

December 1985: Replaced McFarlane as national security adviser

Nov. 25, 1986: Resigned as national security adviser

Dec. 1, 1987: Resigned from Navy

Legal problems

April 7, 1990: Convicted of five charges related to the Iran-contra scandal (one count of conspiring to mislead Congress, two counts of obstructing congressional inquiries into the affair, two counts of making false statements to lawmakers about the Iran weapons sales and efforts to aid the contras)

June 1, 1990: Sentenced to six months in prison; granted stay pending appeal

Nov. 15, 1991: Federal Court of Appeals reverses conviction

Oct. 4, 2001: Failure to obey rule of the road, Talbot County; pleaded guilty, paid $50 fine

Current position

Director, Information Awareness Office

Address: 6th Floor, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, 3710 N. Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA 22203

Sources: Facts on File; Los Angeles Times;; Maryland District Criminal Court records; Autotrack; Montgomery County, Md., property records; / iao / TIASystems.htm

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