Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange Program

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The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange Program, otherwise known as the "Matrix", was terminated in April 2005. [1]

An April 15, 2005, press release issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, "which spearheaded the program, announced the program's shutdown. In 2003, a top Florida police official told the Washington Post that the program was so powerful that it was 'scary' and that 'it could be abused. I mean, I can call up everything about you, your pictures and pictures of your neighbors.'" [2]

Scrutiny

MATRIX came under scrutiny in November 2003 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as the new program was seen as a revival of Total Information Awareness.

"On October 30, 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed simultaneous requests in Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania for information about those states' participation in the 'Matrix program. ... In addition to the five states named above, four other states are participating - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Utah.

"The ACLU's requests seek to find out the information sources on which the Matrix is drawing; who has access to the database; and how it is being used. They were made pursuant to each states' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Previously, in October, the ACLU had sought similar information under the federal version of FOIA, and in Florida, where the program originated." [3]

What The Matrix Is, and How It Works

"The Matrix is run by a private corporation -- Seisint, Inc. of Boca Raton, Florida -- on behalf of a cooperative group of state governments. However, it is, at least in part, federally funded -- and may, in future, allow federal access.

"The program has received $4 million from the Justice Department. It has been promised a further $8 million from the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, news reports indicate that Matrix officials have said they are considering giving access to the CIA.

"What does the Matrix do? According to Congressional testimony and news reports, it appears to do just what TIA would have done, if enacted: Tie together government and commercial databases in order to allow federal and state law enforcement entities to conduct detailed searches on particular individuals' dossiers.

"The Matrix web site states that the data compiled will include criminal histories, driver's license data, vehicle registration records, and significant amounts of public data record entries. Company officials have refused to disclose more specific details about the nature and sources of the data. According to news reports, the data may also include credit histories, driver's license photographs, marriage and divorce records, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and the names and addresses of family members, neighbors and business associates.

"Moreover, there is no guarantee that the type of data that the Matrix compiles will not be further expanded. And information in today's commercial databases encompasses purchasing habits, magazine subscriptions, income and job histories, and much more. Soon, we may be profiled based on what we read and buy, and how we live." [4]

In March 25, 2003, Congressional testimony, a "Florida lawmaker, Paula B. Dockery, described how the Matrix works: It combines government records with information from 'public search businesses' into a 'data-warehouse.' There, dossiers are reviewed by 'specialized software' to identify 'anomalies' using 'mathematical analysis.' If 'anomalies' are spotted, they will then be scrutinized by personnel who will search for evidence of terrorism or other crimes.

"As with TIA, the idea is plainly that of data mining -- the concept that searches for patterns in this data (including so-called 'anomalies') that can identify individuals possibly involved in terrorist or other criminal activity. But as with TIA, this kind of 'data mining' may be ineffective, and has severe downsides, including its privacy costs." [5]

Background

"MATRIX was developed by Hank Asher, a wealthy data entrepreneur and founder of Seisint. According to news reports, Asher called Florida police right after the [September 11, 2001] attacks, claiming he could pinpoint the hijackers and others who might pose a risk of terrorist activity. He offered to make this powerful law enforcement database available quickly, for free. Asher, reportedly a former government informant involved with drug smuggling, resigned from Seisint at the end of August following a series of critical newspaper reports - reports that also reminded Florida residents that it was Asher's former company, Database Technologies, that administered the contract that stripped thousands of African Americans from the Florida voter rolls before the 2000 election, erroneously contending that they were felons."

"Data from MATRIX are transferred through the Regional Information Sharing Systems network (riss.net), an existing secure law enforcement network used to transmit sensitive information among law enforcement agencies, with connectivity for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, United States Attorneys' Offices, other federal agencies, and several state law enforcement systems."

Source: Free Expression Policy Project. Also see "First responders get homeland security network,' Government Computer News, v. 23, #9, April 28, 2003.

Contact Information

ACLU

Related SourceWatch articles

External articles

2002

  • "Critical Connections: Sharing Data to Protect the Public," Joint session of the Law and Criminal Justice Standing Committee and Communications, Technology and Interstate Commerce Committee, Fall Forum, Washington, DC, December 12, 2002 (Audio, Handout & Links): Scroll down to "Steve G. Hodges, National Issues Coordinator, Regional Information Sharing System (RISS)" re mention of MATRIX.

2003

2004

2005