Ben H. Bell III

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Ben H. Bell III, "who led the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force at the Department of Justice," is Director of the Transportation Security Administration's Office of National Risk Assessment. The TSA and ONRA fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. ONRA manages CAPPS II, the updated Computer Assisted Passenger PreScreening System II.[1]

26 December 2003: "Profiling system advances" by Robert O'Harrow, Jr. Washington Post:

"The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has hired an intelligence official with database expertise to oversee development of the agency's electronic profiling system, a proposed network of supercomputers intended to instantly assess every passenger's background for potential ties to terrorism, officials close to the project said.

"Ben Bell 3d, who recently served as deputy director of a technology-oriented terrorism task force at the Justice Department, is expected to work out technical and policy snags that have delayed what some officials regard as the most ambitious domestic data-surveillance system ever begun by the federal government.

"Officials familiar with the profiling system, called CAPPS 2, said Bell was brought over to the security administration in last November because he combines computer savvy with foreign, domestic and law enforcement intelligence experience. Among other posts, Bell has served as deputy assistant commissioner for intelligence at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Officials said he was unavailable for comment.

"'He has a history of work in the intelligence world. At the end of the day, we're trying to fuse intelligence, domestic and foreign,' an official said, adding that Bell also had experience in 'very sophisticated data mining and analysis.'

"The hiring of Bell, now director of the new Office of National Risk Assessment at the security administration, underscores the government's growing push to apply intelligence methods to the analysis of vast amounts of personal information. The FBI and some U.S. cities have begun or greatly expanded their own data-mining efforts since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has started designing a global computer surveillance system that may one day help in the war on terrorism.

"Plans for CAPPS 2 - short for second-generation Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System - call for a system that will analyze passengers' travel reservations, housing information, family ties and identifying details in credit reports and other personal information to determine if they are 'rooted' in the terrorist community or have an unusual history that indicates a potential threat.

"Unresolved are questions about the system's potential impact on civil liberties. Knowledgeable officials said Bell and others at the security administration will be working closely with Congress to create safeguards.

"James Dempsey, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said he found nothing inherently unsettling about having an intelligence official at the helm of the project. But he worries more about the kinds of data the system will analyze and who will be given access to that data.

"'We haven't even begun to publicly develop the guidelines of how it will be used,' he said."

Bell is an alumnus of Louisiana's Nicholls State University.[2]

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