Has conducted research and development (R&D) for agencies such as the Terrorism Information Awareness Program as a means of assisting government investigators to discover covert linkages among individuals, places, and events related to possible terrorist activity. However, when the funding for the Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) program was stopped in 2004, the Information Awareness Office, a branch of DARPA, was disbanded.
Though the TIA “data mining” program was supposed to sift through massive quantities of citizens’ personal data (which included such things as credit card transactions and travel logs) to detect possible terrorist activities against the United States, the TIA program and other similar proposals by the United States government for domestic surveillance raised privacy concerns. Groups of concerned citizens, including lawyers, advocacy groups, and journalists, argued that not only may domestic surveillance be viewed by unauthorized users but also that certain gathered personal information could be misused even by authorized users.
As a result of these concerns, the U.S. Congress decided to review whether it would restrict or even stop funding for the TIA program. To this end, the Department of Defense is reviewing the capabilities of other data mining products that may, in fact, reduce domestic privacy concerns raised by the TIA program.
As an alternative, the Systems Research and Development technology firm in Las Vegas, Nevada, has been hired by the CIA and Homeland Security officers to design a new data mining search product. Called Anonymous Entity Resolution, this encrypted product would assist investigators in assessing whether a terrorist suspect appears in separate databases and would do so without revealing individuals’ privacy information.
Also, between 2001 and 2005, a private Boca Raton, Florida, corporation—Seisint, Inc.—operated an anti-terrorism information system on behalf of a group of state governments. It was called the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX). Its purpose was to locate patterns among people and events by pooling police records with commercially available data on most U.S. adults. The Justice Department provided $4 million to broaden the MATRIX program on a national basis, and the Department of Homeland Security pledged $8 million to assist with the expansion, noting that Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York were becoming part of the network. The MATRIX caused significant protest by organizations such as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), which applauded the shutdown of the MATRIX program in April 2005.
Wilson, C. CRS Report for Congress: Computer Attack and Cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and Policy Issues for Congress. [Online, October 17, 2003.] CRS Report Website. http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL32114.pdf.