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NameBase is a web-based cross-indexed database of names that focuses on individuals involved in the international intelligence community, U.S. foreign policy, crime, and business. The focus is on the post-World War II era and on left of center, conspiracy theory, and espionage activities.
Founder Daniel Brandt began collecting clippings and citations pertaining to influential people and intelligence agents in the 1960s and especially in the 1970s after becoming a member of Students for a Democratic Society, an organization that opposed US foreign policy. With the advent of personal computing, he developed a database which allowed subscribers to access the names of US intelligence agents.
In the 1980s, through his company Micro Associates, he sold subscriptions to this computerized database under its original name, Public Information Research, Inc (PIR). At PIR's onset, Brandt was President of the newly formed non-profit corporation, and investigative researcher Peggy Adler served as its Vice President. The material was described as "information on all sorts of spooks, military officials, political operators and other cloak-and-dagger types". He told The New York Times at the time that "many of these sources are fairly obscure so it's a very effective way to retrieve information on U.S. intelligence that no one else indexes." One research librarian calls it "a unique part of the 'Deep Web'", equally useful to investigative journalists and students.
By 1992, private citizens, news organizations, and universities were all using NameBase. In 1995, these efforts became the basis of the NameBase website. As of 2003[update], the database contained "over 100,000 names with over 260,000 citations drawn from books and serials with a few documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act." The website is structured so that users can follow hyperlinked information "and thus uncover potential relationships or connections between individuals and groups". The way this is formatted on the website is referred to as a social network and, though the user has to click further to actually determine the relationship between names on a given social network, as they are not specifically listed, NameBase was described by Paul B. Kantor as being the "only web-based tool readily available for visualizing social networks of terrorism researchers."
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