Friday, May 21, 2004

What is your terrorist quotient?

This article by Brian Bergstein discusses some of the privacy concerns associated with the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX).

Selected quote:

Bill Shrewsbury, a Seisint executive and former federal drug agent, said the terrorism scoring algorithm that produced the list of 120,000 names was "put on the shelf" after it was demonstrated immediately following Sept. 11, 2001.

He said the scoring system requires intelligence data that was fed into the software for the initial demonstration but is not commonly available. "Nor are we interested in pursuing that," he said.

The Utah documents included a Seisint presentation saying the scoring system was developed by the company and law enforcement officials by reverse engineering an unnamed "Terrorist Handbook" that reveals how terrorists "penetrate and live in our society."

The scoring incorporated such factors as age, gender, ethnicity, credit history, "investigational data," information about pilot and driver licenses, and connections to "dirty" addresses known to have been used by other suspects.

According to Seisint's presentation, dated January 2003 and marked confidential, the 120,000 names with the highest scores were given to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, FBI, Secret Service and Florida state police. (Later, those agencies would help craft the software that queries Matrix.)

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