Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange
The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange Program, also known by the acronym MATRIX, was a U.S. federally funded data mining system originally developed for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement described as a tool to identify terrorist subjects.
The system was reported to analyze government and commercial databases to find associations between suspects or to discover locations of or completely new "suspects". The database and technologies used in the system were housed by Seisint, a Florida-based company since acquired by Lexis Nexis.
The Matrix program was shut down in June 2005 after federal funding was cut in the wake of public concerns over privacy and state surveillance.
Matrix was the brainchild of Hank Asher, a serial businessman in the data aggregation field. Asher reportedly contacted Florida police immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, claiming he could find the hijackers as well as other potential terrorists. Asher reportedly offered to make available the database and technology that could do the job quickly, for free, supplied by the company he owned and operated: Seisint.
Control of the system was handed over to law enforcement officials, although Seisint continued to house and operate it on their behalf. After a demonstration of the system at the White House in January 2003 Matrix received US$4 million in grants from the U.S. Justice Department and the program was earmarked US$8 million by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The program snowballed, as states signed up to participate, including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio and Utah. California and Texas joined then exited the program, citing privacy and security concerns. The U.S. federal government and the CIA was cited as likely future users.
The program's similarity to the Total Information Awareness (TIA) federally funded initiative that was terminated following public concerns contributed to Matrix's demise. Matrix came under scrutiny by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which made Freedom of Information Act requests in Florida, where the program originated, and to the federal government on 30 October 2003. The ACLU followed this up with simultaneous information requests in Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania for information about those states' participation in Matrix.
The ACLU's requests sought to find out the information sources that Matrix was drawing upon, who had access to the database and how it is being used. As well as the funding and operations described here, the ACLU's requests revealed that Matrix would perform an almost identical function to the banned TIA. Matrix would bind together government and commercial databases to allow federal and state law enforcement entities to conduct detailed searches on individuals.
Public revelation of the projects funding caused an uproar in the media and states began withdrawing their support. The Matrix program was finally shut down in June 2005 after federal funding was cut in the wake of public concerns over privacy and state surveillance.
Seisint retained the technology used to operate Matrix. Both Seisint and its Matrix technology are now owned by Lexis Nexis.
The Matrix website stated that the data would include criminal histories, driver's license data, vehicle registration records, and public data record entries. Other data was thought to 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. All of this information is available to the government without the need for a warrant. The ACLU pointed out that the type of data that the Matrix compiles could be expanded to include information in commercial databases encompasses such as purchasing habits, magazine subscriptions, income and job histories.
Matrix would combine these government records and information from commercial databases in a data warehouse. Dossiers would be reviewed by specialized software to identify anomalies using 'mathematical analysis.' When anomalies are spotted, they would be scrutinized by personnel who would search for evidence of terrorism or other crimes.
Like the TIA, Matrix would use data mining where searches for patterns in this data (including the 'anomalies') would be used to identify individuals possibly involved in terrorist or other criminal activity. Congressional critic Paula B. Dockery pointed out that like the TIA, this kind of 'data mining' may be ineffective, and have severe downsides, including its privacy costs.
Data from Matrix would be transferred through the Regional Information Sharing Systems network, an existing secure law enforcement network used to transmit sensitive information among law enforcement agencies. The network was linked to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, United States Attorneys' Offices, other federal agencies and several state law enforcement systems.
- Computer Assisted Passenger PreScreening System II
- Total Information Awareness
- Joint Regional Information Exchange System
- Regional Information Sharing Systems
- Terrorist Screening Center
- Traffic Violations Reciprocity and Driver License Agreement
- USA PATRIOT Act
- , Privacy International, 5 June 2005, loaded 30 March 2007
- , Alternet, 16 October 2003, loaded 30 March 2007
- LexisNexis To Buy Seisint For $775 Million, Washington Post, 15 July 2004, loaded 2 April 2007
- Why We Should Fear The Matrix, ACLU
- Congressional testimony (25 March 2003),
- Commentaries Free Expression Policy Project
- First responders get homeland security network, Government Computer News, v. 23, #9, 28 April 2003
||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (August 2010)|
- 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, 30 October 2003.
- When maverick cyber-pioneer Hank Asher invented MATRIX, Vanity Fair 050131: "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?."
- Global Intelligence Working Group Connectivity/Systems Committee, Meeting Summary, 28 January 2003 includes discussion of the Matrix.
- Scroll down to "Steve G. Hodges, National Issues Coordinator, Regional Information Sharing System (RISS)" where you will find mention of MATRIX in December 2002.
- Florida hires firm founded by man implicated in drug-smuggling to fight terror, CNews.canoe.ca: "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), AP, 3 August 2003.
- Robert O'Harrow, Jr., U.S. Backs Florida's New Counterterrorism Database. 'Matrix' Offers Law Agencies Faster Access to Americans' Personal Records, WashingtonPost, 5 August 2003.
- Robert O'Harrow, Jr., US Backs Florida's New Counterterrorism Database. 'Matrix' Offers Law Agencies Faster Access to Americans' Personal Records, Washington Post, 6 August 2003.
- Enter the Matrix in the War Against Terror, Spartacus, 6 August 2003.
- Florida Creates 'the Matrix', a Big Brother-Like Surveillance System with Help From Choicepoint-Related Firm, Democracy Now, 7 August 2003.
- Lucy Morgan, Troubled Business May Lose Contract with State, St. Petersburg Times, 13 August 2003.
- Matrix Database May Substitute For Total Information Awareness Project, FuturePundit.com, 14 August 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, AP, 29 August 2003.
- States build anti-terror database. Project resembles federal database thwarted by privacy fears, AP, 23 September 2003.
- Jim Krane, U.S. funding privately run database intended for tracking terrorists, AP, 24 September 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 who police say flew planeloads of drugs into the country in the early 1980s."
- Thomas C. Greene, A back door to Poindexter's Orwellian dream, TheRegister, 24 September 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, 26 September 2003.
- Total/Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA): Is It Truly Dead?. Electronic Frontier Foundation: "It's Too Early to Tell"; 3 October 2003.
- Courtesy of PRWatch at GuerrillaNews.com, 3 October 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, 8 October 2003.
- Ashlee Vance, "Georgia runs from the MATRIX", Register/UK, 22 October 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), [and] ARM (Activity Recognition Monitoring)."
- State May Link Its Databases With Anti-Terrorism MATRIX Project, 25 October 2003. (CT)
- State not rushing to link databases to interstate anti-terrorism program, 25 October 2003. (OH)
- October,0,6278662.story?coll=hc-headlines-local-wire ACLU seeks records to anti-terrorism program, AP, 30 October 2003.
- Nancy Kravich, A Blip in the MATRIX, AlterNet, 8 November 2003.
- 2 February 2004: Utah unplugs; 2 articles: ,