More good news as I catch up on my newsreading — the Total Information Awareness program is facing heavy opposition, and is likely to be barred from collecting information on American citizens.

House and Senate negotiators have agreed that a Pentagon project intended to detect terrorists by monitoring Internet e-mail and commercial databases for health, financial and travel information cannot be used against Americans.

The conferees also agreed to restrict further research on the program without extensive consultation with Congress.

House leaders agreed with Senate fears about the threat to personal privacy in the Pentagon program, known as Total Information Awareness. So they accepted a Senate provision in the omnibus spending bill passed last month, said Representative Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who heads the defense appropriations subcommittee.

Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, said of the program, “Jerry’s against it, and I’m against it, so we kept the Senate amendment.” Of the Pentagon, he said, “They’ve got some crazy people over there.”

One important factor in the breadth of the opposition is the fact that the research project is headed by Adm. John M. Poindexter. Several members of Congress have said that the admiral was an unwelcome symbol because he had been convicted of lying to Congress about weapons sales to Iran and illegal aid to Nicaraguan rebels, an issue with constitutional ramifications, the Iran-contra affair. The fact that his conviction was later reversed on the ground that he had been given immunity for the testimony in which he lied did not mitigate Congressional opinion, they said.

Excellent, excellent news. It finally looks like the “anything to catch a terrorist” fervor that has been running rampant is starting to ebb, and more and more people in positions where they can do something are starting to take a second look at what’s going on. I just hope this trend continues.

(Via /. and Tom Tomorrow)