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[] NYT/AP: Database Tagged 120,000 as Possible Terrorist Suspects,
Database Tagged 120,000 as Possible Terrorist Suspects

Published: May 21, 2004

he Associated Press

Before helping to start the criminal information project known as Matrix, 
a database contractor gave United States and Florida authorities the names 
of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists, 
resulting in some investigations and arrests.

The "high terrorism factor" scoring system also became a critical selling 
point for the involvement of the database company, Seisint Inc., in the 

Public records obtained by The Associated Press from several states show 
that Justice Department officials cited the scoring technology in 
appointing Seisint the sole contractor on the $12 million federal project.

Seisint and the law enforcement officials who oversee Matrix insist that 
the terrorism scoring system was ultimately kept out of the project, 
largely because of privacy concerns.

But new details about Seisint's development of the "terrorism quotient," 
including the revelation that the authorities apparently acted on the list 
of 120,000, are raising questions about Matrix's potential power.

"Assuming they have in fact abandoned the terrorist quotient, there's 
nothing that stops them from bringing it back," said Barry Steinhardt, 
director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil 
Liberties Union, which learned about the list of 120,000 through its own 
records request in Utah.

Matrix, short for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, combines 
state records and data culled by Seisint to give investigators fast access 
to information on crime and terrorism suspects. It was begun in 2002.

Because the system includes information on innocent people as well as 
known criminals, Matrix has drawn objections from liberal and conservative 
privacy groups. Utah and at least eight other states have pulled out, 
leaving Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania still in the 

Officials involved with Matrix have said that the statistical method was 
removed from the final product. "I'll put my 26 years of law enforcement 
experience on the line," said Mark Zadra, chief investigator for the 
Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "It is not in there."

Mr. Zadra said that Matrix, which has four billion records, merely speeds 
access to material that the police have always been able to get from 
disparate sources and that it did not automatically identify suspects.

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

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

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