Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange Program
The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange Program, otherwise known as the "Matrix", was terminated in April 2005. 
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.'" 
"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." 
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." 
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." 
"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."
- MATRIX web site, Institute for Intergovernmental Research.
- Contact: R. Clay Jester
- Program Contacts.
- ACLU Links to TIA information, FOIA requests, and news clips on the "Matrix" program.
- The MATRIX: Total Information Awareness Reloaded (438 KB pdf download), ACLU, October 30, 2003.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Computer Assisted Passenger PreScreening System II
- Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force
- National Security Branch Analysis Center
- Patriot Act I
- Patriot Act I headlines
- Patriot Act II
- Patriot Act abuses
- Patriot Act industry
- Terrorist Screening Center
- Terrorist Threat Integration System
- Total Information Awareness
- "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.
- Global Intelligence Working Group Connectivity/Systems Committee, Meeting Summary, January 28, 2003. Includes discussion of the Matrix.
- "Florida hires firm founded by man implicated in drug-smuggling to fight terror," CNews (Canada), August 2, 2003: "Hank Asher is founder of Seisint, Inc., an information-technology company with a $1.6-million contract with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to work on a pilot program for the Matrix network, through which sensitive information on terrorism and other crime suspects would be exchanged."
- "State contracts with company founded by man linked to smuggling" (cache file), Associated Press (Naples News), August 3, 2003.
- Robert O'Harrow, Jr., "U.S. Backs Florida's New Counterterrorism Database. 'Matrix' Offers Law Agencies Faster Access to Americans' Personal Records," Washington Post, August 5, 2003.
- "Enter the Matrix in the War Against Terror," Spartacus, August 6, 2003.
- "Florida Creates 'the Matrix', a Big Brother-Like Surveillance System with Help From Choicepoint-Related Firm,", Democracy Now!, August 7, 2003.
- Lucy Morgan, "Troubled Business May Lose Contract with State," St. Petersburg Times, August 13, 2003.
- "Matrix Database May Substitute For Total Information Awareness Project," FuturePundit.com, August 14, 2003: "The database is being developed by a company called Seisint which already markets a commercial database service called Accurint which is a database service for locating people and past and present addresses."
- "Man Implicated As Ex-Smuggler Quits Job," Associated Press (Ledger-Enquirer), August 29, 2003.
- "States build anti-terror database. Project resembles federal database thwarted by privacy fears," Associated Press (MSNBC), September 23, 2003.
- Jim Krane, U.S. funding privately run database intended for tracking terrorists, Associated Press (islandpacket.com), September 24, 2003: "Dubbed Matrix, the database has been in use for a year and a half in Florida, where police praise the crime-fighting tool as nimble and exhaustive. It cross-references the state's driving records and restricted police files with billions of pieces of public and private data, including credit and property records. ... Privacy advocates, officials in two states and a competing data vendor have branded Matrix as playing fast and loose with Americans' private details. ... They complain that Matrix houses restricted police and government files on colossal databases that sit in the offices of Seisint Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla., company founded by a millionaire whom police say flew planeloads of drugs into the country in the early 1980s."
- Thomas C. Greene, "A back door to Poindexter's Orwellian dream," The Register (UK), September 24, 2003: "The company profiting from this data bonanza, Florida outfit Seisint Inc., is run by a gentleman implicated two decades ago in a drug smuggling ring, according to the Associated Press. This certainly qualifies him as an appropriate understudy to Poindexter."
- Carl Hulse, "Poindexter's Office Closed: Department Tried Terrorism Futures," San Francisco Chronicle, September 26, 2003.
- "Total/Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA): Is It Truly Dead?' Electronic Frontier Foundation: "It's Too Early to Tell"; October 3, 2003.
- Courtesy of PRWatch at GuerrillaNews.com, October 3, 2003: "'Qorvis Communications is representing Seisint Inc., the Boca Raton-based database company, that is home to the Matrix -- Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange -- which has privacy advocates on edge,' O'Dwyer's PR Reports."
- "Counterterrorism Database Could Threaten Privacy," OMBWatch.org, October 8, 2003.
- Ashlee Vance, "Georgia runs from the MATRIX," The Register (UK), October 22, 2003: "The state of Georgia has pulled out of the U.S. Department of Justice sponsored MATRIX information collection program, leaving data only on its felons and sexual offenders behind in the Orwellian database. ... The list of states willing to participate in the MATRIX project is dwindling. Kentucky, Oregon and South Carolina pulled out earlier this year. Georgia's exit leaves the Party with Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah as guinea pigs. ... The handy life-tracking database idea should sound familiar. DARPA tried to get some backing for its Total Information Awareness (TIA) program before being shut down by Congress. It seems, however, that was bit a mini-bump in the road. Along with TIA and MATRIX, we have NIMD (Novel Intelligence from Massive Data); CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System); HID (Human Identification at a Distance), ARM (Activity Recognition Monitoring); F.U.K.D (Free the United Kingdom From Drugs) and B.O.M.B.D (British Opposition to Metabolically Bisturbile Drugs); and G.E.F.A.F.W.I.S.P (Global Ensortium For A First World Iniative On Scientific Practise)."
- "State May Link Its Databases With Anti-Terrorism MATRIX Project," WCPO News, October 25, 2003. (CT)
- "State not rushing to link databases to interstate anti-terrorism program," Centre Daily, October 25, 2003. (OH)
- "ACLU seeks records to anti-terrorism program," Associated Press, October 30, 2003.
- Anita Ramasastry, "Why We Should Fear The Matrix", FindLaw's Writ, November 5, 2003.
- Nancy Kravich, "A Blip in the MATRIX," AlterNet, November 8, 2003.
- Jerry D. Spangler, Amy Joi Bryson and Bob Bernick Jr., "Dossier program alarms Utahns," Deseret Morning News, January 29, 2004.
- Jerry D. Spangler and Bob Bernick Jr., "Utah unplugs its MATRIX link. Privacy concerns lead state to opt out of data program," Deseret Morning News, January 30, 2004.
- "Bastard Children of 'TIA'," DefenseTech.org, February 1, 2004.
- "U.S. Still Mining Terror Data," Associated Press (Wired News), February 23, 2004.
- Ryan Singel, "Wisconsin, New York Unplug Matrix," Wired News, March 15, 2004.
- Robert O'Harrow, Jr., "Anti-Terror Database Got Show at White House," Washington Post, May 21, 2004.
- "Gov't Data Mining Program Proceeding Under Another Name," beSpacific.com, May 21, 2004: "According to documents obtained by the ACLU in response to FOIA requests, data mining and surveillance initiatives consistent with the Total Information Awareness program, whose work was suspended by Congress, continue under the auspices of the MATRIX program."
- Michael Shnayerson, "The Net's Master Data-miner," Vanity Fair, January 31, 2005: "When maverick cyber-pioneer Hank Asher invented MATRIX—a controversial personal-information database—he gave the government a powerful tool for tracking terrorists. So why isn't he a hero?."
- "ACLU Applauds End Of 'Matrix' Program. Second Major Snoop Program Shut Down By Privacy Opposition," ACLU, April 15, 2005.
- "'MATRIX' Unloaded," DefenseTech.org, April 18, 2005.
- "Tracking Hank Asher. A pioneering data maverick moves to Naples," GulfShore Life, Summer 2005.