Wednesday, August 30, 2006

FBI's Investigative Data Warehouse Unveiled

Data mining nation is proud of its newest creation for "counterterrorism", the FBI's Investigative Data Warehouse.

The FBI has built a database with more than 659 million records -- including terrorist watch lists, intelligence cables and financial transactions -- culled from more than 50 FBI and other government agency sources. The system is one of the most powerful data analysis tools available to law enforcement and counterterrorism agents, FBI officials said yesterday....

Privacy advocates said the Investigative Data Warehouse, launched in January 2004, raises concerns about how long the government stores such information and about the right of citizens to know what records are kept and correct information that is wrong....

The system, designed by Chiliad Inc. of Amherst, Mass., can be programmed to send alerts to agents on new information, Grigg said. Names, Social Security numbers and driver's license details can be linked and cross-matched across hundreds of millions of records.

No top secret information is in the system, officials said.

(Gurvais Grigg, acting director of the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force) said that before 2002, it would take 32,222 hours to run 1,000 names and birth dates across 50 databases. Now agents can make such a search in 30 minutes or less, he said.

The 13,000 agents and analysts who use the system make an average 1 million queries a month, Grigg said. The system does not reach into the databases themselves but mines copies that are updated regularly, he said.

Irrelevant information can be purged or restricted, and incorrect information is corrected, he said. Willie T. Hulon, executive assistant director of the FBI's National Security Branch, said that generally information is not removed from the system unless there is "cause for removal."

David Sobel, senior counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the Federal Register has no record of the creation of such a system, a basic requirement of the Privacy Act. He also said the FBI's use of an internal privacy assessment undercuts the intent of the privacy law. ...

"It appears to be the largest collection of personal data ever amassed by the federal government," Sobel said. "When they develop the capability to cross-reference and data-mine all these previously separate sources of information, there are significant new privacy issues that need to be publicly debated."


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