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TrapWire is a counter-terrorism technology company that produces a homonymous predictive software system designed to find patterns indicative of terrorist attacks.[1]


The company was named in August 2012, through the WikiLeaks releases, as a source of software that facilitates intelligence-gathering on U.S. and global citizens, using surveillance technology, incident reports from citizens, and data correlation for local police and law enforcement agencies.

Details about the program emerged in 2011, after Stratfor's emails were hacked and released. According to a report by Russia Today,[2] a network of surveillance cameras was installed "In major American cities at selected high value targets (HVTs) and has appeared abroad as well." A software program analyzes the images to detect "suspicious" behavior. The program is reported to be a joint effort by Stratfor and Abraxas Corp (VA), but following an ownership change, Abraxas has no involvement in the technology venture. The report also refers to a 2006 article in which then-current Abraxas Vice President R. Daniel Botsch outlined TrapWire's capabilities:[3]

Any patterns detected – links among individuals, vehicles or activities – will be reported back to each affected facility. This information can also be shared with the law enforcement organizations, enabling them to begin investigations into the suspected surveillance cell.

In one leaked email, Stratfor vice president Fred Burton stated TrapWire is in place at every high-value target in New York City, Washington, D.C, and Los Angeles, as well as London and Ottawa.[4]

System description[edit]

TrapWire is registered as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In the submitted document,[5] the system is described in detail. The assumption is that terrorists are vulnerable due to their need to conduct pre-attack surveillance, "such as photographing, measuring and signaling". Such suspicious activities, as detected in imagery from Pan–tilt–zoom cameras or human reports, are entered into a database, using a "10-characteristic description of individuals" or vehicle information. The data is correlated across the network, claiming a "network effect" of increased security due to this correlation. The result is a TrapWire Threat Meter (TIM) level which may be monitored by security personnel. The system distinguishes threat and vulnerability information; the latter is not shared through the network.


Chief NYPD spokesperson Paul J. Browne denied that the department used TrapWire.[6] The company's particular "intelligence for hire" methods have been characterized as "noting sleeze, rather than surveillance",[7] although TrapWire has been characterized as being a data-mining company.[8] WikiLeaks suffered DDoS attacks of over 10GB/sec for several days on its main domains,[9][10] with mirrored supporter sites receiving up to 40GB/sec at times. "Trapwire" topped the trending topics on Twitter.[11] The leaked documentation promptly became available via a number of mirror sites and on the anonymity network Tor.[12][better source needed] The story raised concerns about the surveillance-industrial complex vis-à-vis civil liberties.[13]

Starting August 2012, Anonymous launched a campaign of popular education (named #OpTrapWire). In September 2012,[14] the group changed the operation's name to #OpBigBrother,[15] #IDP13[16] and #optinfoilhat[17] in response to the development of other similar mass surveillance systems in other countries or locations. Several days of "International day for privacy" have been organized (for example February 23, 2013).[18]


  1. ^ Hedgecock, Sarah (August 14, 2012). "TrapWire: The Less-Than-Advertised System To Spy On Americans". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  2. ^ "Stratfor emails reveal secret, widespread TrapWire surveillance system". 10 August 2012. Archived from the original on 20 August 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  3. ^ R. Daniel Botsch and Michael T. Maness (November–December 2006). "Trapwire: Preventing Terrorism" (PDF). Crime & Justice International. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  4. ^ Brown, Jesse (15 August 2012). "Trapwire is watching you in Ottawa". Maclean's. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Abraxas Corporation (26 September 2006). "TrapWire™ Pre-Attack Terrorist Detection System For Protecting Critical Infrastructure". Retrieved 12 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Shane, Scott (August 13, 2012). "WikiLeaks Stirs Global Fears on Antiterrorist Software". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  7. ^ Shachtman, Noah (August 14, 2012). "Trapwire: It’s Not the Surveillance, It’s the Sleaze". Wired. 
  8. ^ Chen, Adrian (August 13, 2012). "Everything You Need to Know About TrapWire, the Surveillance System Everyone Is Freaking Out About". Gawker. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  9. ^ Whittaker, Zack (August 14, 2012). "Wikileaks uncovers TrapWire surveillance: FAQ". ZDNet. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  10. ^ "Twitter / wikileaks: (1/5) The attack is well over 10 Gbits/second". Twitter. August 10, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  11. ^ "TrapWire Tops Twitter thanks to Anonymous and WikiLeaks". Storify. 2012-08-10. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  12. ^ "New WikiLeaks #Trapwire release mirrors and TOR LINK « NonviolentConflict". Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  13. ^ Stanley, Jay (August 14, 2012). "What to Make of the TrapWire Story". ACLU. Retrieved 2012-09-13. 
  14. ^ "#OpBigBrother". 2012-10-27. Retrieved 2013-04-14. 
  15. ^ "#OpBigBrother". Twitter. Retrieved 2013-04-14. 
  16. ^ "#IDP13". Twitter. Retrieved 2013-04-14. 
  17. ^ "#optinfoilhat". Twitter. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  18. ^ "#OpBigBrother #IDP13 "International day for privacy 2013" 23th [sic] February". Paste HTML. Retrieved 2013-04-14. 

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