Wednesday, June 13, 2007


FBI Seeking To Create 6 Billion Record Database Similar To Total Information Awareness

In the name of fighting terrorism, the FBI is seeking to create a massive new data-mining program which “bears a striking resemblance” to the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program:

The FBI is seeking $12 million for the [National Security Branch Analysis Center] in FY2008, which will include 90,000 square feet of office space and a total of 59 staff, including 23 contractors and five FBI agents. Documents predict the NSAC will include six billion records by FY2012. This amounts to 20 separate “records” for each man, woman and child in the United States. The “universe of subjects will expand exponentially” with the expanded role of the NSAC, the Justice Department documents assert.

Concerned about the potential for abuse, House Science and Technology Committee members Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) requested last week that the Government Accountability Office investigate the proposal.

Citing the FBI’s “track record of improperly — even illegally — gathering personal information on Americans,” Miller and Sensenbrenner want the GAO to look into:

What information will be contained in the “records” it collects, whether the “records” of U.S. citizens will be included in its database, how this data will be employed and how the FBI plans to ensure that the data is not misused or abused in any way.

The congressmen’s concerns are justified. In 2005, the GAO found that the FBI’s Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force did not comply with all privacy and security laws. Earlier this year, an Inspector General’s report found that the FBI had repeatedly violated regulations while using National Security Letters to “obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors.”

Furthermore, data mining has yet to be proven effective in counter-terrorism. Jeff Jonas, a world renowned data mining expert and IBM Distinguished Engineer, wrote in a recent Cato Institute study on “predictive” data mining that because it is extremely difficult to distinguish between ordinary behavior and terrorist behavior, programs similar to NSAC are likely to “flood the national security system with false positives — suspects who are truly innocent.”

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