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[infowar.de] 'Spot the terrorist' system was pitched to Cheney by Jeb Bush
Ich bin verwundert, dass ein geheimdienstliches System of System noch
immer nicht in der Mache ist. Oder?
Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/05/20/terror_prediction/
'Spot the terrorist' system was pitched to Cheney by Jeb Bush
By John Lettice (john -
- theregister -
Published Thursday 20th May 2004 11:55 GMT
A 'terrorism scoring' system which is now claimed to have been dropped was
a key factor in selling the controversial MATRIX system to the US Justice
Department, claims an Associated Press report.
MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange), was originally
intended as a (as its name suggests) mechanism for US States to share
databases and nail actual and potential terrorists, lost support last
year, and Utah pulled out in March.
Which leaves just Florida, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The decreasing enthusiasm for MATRIX seems to have a certain amount to do
with information requests by activists and the media. The Utah ACLU, for
example, obtained documents from Utah in February which showed that MATRIX
"includes much more than public records available to anyone on the
Internet and is indeed a data-mining program that makes predictions about
crime or terrorism."
Utah ACLU also claims (http://www.acluutah.org/matrix.htm) the documents
make it clear that Utah "was a driving force behind the project." The
terror scoring capability (HTF, High Terrorist Factor) was intended by the
company which designed MATRIX, Seisint, to predict people's tendency to
commit a crime. In initial demonstrations Seisint produced a list of
120,000 people with high terrorist factor scores. This was compiled from
public and private records covering ethnicity, age, gender and "proximity
to dirty address" (see report, Salt Lake Tribune)
Miraculously, this list turned out to include five of the September 11th
hijackers - impressive, huh? Well it appears to have impressed the DoJ.
But there are just a couple of slight snags here. Several years later most
of the remaining "terror suspects" still haven't done anything, so it's
kind of difficult to see how MATRIX, had it existed early enough, could
have been used to pick up that particular five out of the 120,000. As
presented, the five showed up in a list of 80, of which 45 were already
known suspects and 30 new, but this really does depend on how you tune the
system. And you'd kind of expect a company demonstrating a system that was
supposed to ID terrorists before they terrorised to demo it with some
"proof" that it could have caught known terrorists.
But that actually leads us to one of the biggest problems - not that
vendors skew the results of such systems in order to sell them, but that
this kind of system by its its very nature skews itself so that it
actually 'fights the last war.' Computer security professionals will be
all too familiar with the syndrome; you diligently figure out what went
wrong in previous intrusions, plug the hole so that it doesn't happen
again, then wham, something new happens so you start observing again.
Plugging the holes certainly has a value, but as many of the scoring
factors that kicked up the five would have been added because of the
experience of September 11th, it seems highly unlikely that MATRIX would
have been able to identify them before it happened.
Was that a polite way of saying 'snake oil'? Whatever. One of the major
pieces of collateral damage of MATRIX seems to be the revelation of the
quite staggering amounts of personal data that Seisint was able to buy on
the open market without the states covered knowing about it. The ACLU Utah
records show it had criminal histories from four states, correctional data
from 33, sex offender lists from 27, driver licences from 15 and vehicle
registrations from 13. There were initially 13 states signed up for
MATRIX, so clearly not being in it doesn't entirely stop you being in it.
The total may be 4 billion records, but 20 billion has also been claimed.
If you're sitting on what has been claimed to be the largest database on
the planet, and it's supposed to be used as a law enforcement tool, it's
difficult to see how you could possibly refrain from doing a good bit of
record association, even predicting. MATRIX's remaining proponents insist
that the terror prediction capability has been dropped, but Associated
Press, despite specifically requesting documents indicating that the
scoring system had been dropped, hasn't received any.
"The AP has received thousands of pages of Matrix documents in records
requests this year, including meeting minutes and presentation materials
that discuss the project in detail," the report says. "Not one indicates
that Matrix planners decided against using the statistical method of
determining an individual's propensity for terrorism."
AP requests have also uncovered "briefing points" dated January 2003 from
a presentation delivered to Dick Cheney jointly by Seisint, Florida
Governor Jeb Bush and a top Florida police official. This includes
"Demonstrate HTF with mapping." The May 2003 DoJ approval of Seisint as
sole data contractor refers to software "applying 'terrorism quotient' in
all cases." So if it's dead, it must have died quite recently, and there
is as yet no evidence that a stake has been driven through its heart. ?
Georgia runs from the MATRIX
A back door to Poindexter's Orwellian dream
Utah ACLU Matrix page (http://www.acluutah.org/matrix.htm)
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