, The Register 2003-09-24
The perverse dream of integrating law enforcement, military intelligence and vast databases of virtually everything done by virtually every citizen is coming to fruition, only under state, not federal, auspices.DARPA's dreaded Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, formerly administered by convicted felon and Republican hero John Poindexter of Iran-Contra fame, may have been de-clawed by Congress, but it lives on at the state level in an incarnation called, ominously, the MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange).
There's a lot to dislike in this new end-run around Congressional oversight. For one thing there are federal dollars behind it -- four million from the Department of Justice -- which makes it clear that the Feds will be expecting a payoff.
It also appears that the scheme is geared more towards data mining in quest of garden-variety criminal activity than anything to do with international terrorism. When you combine that with federal interest, it's hard to resist seeing the MATRIX as a sneaky way for three-letter agencies to keep tabs on ordinary folk and their foibles, side-stepping restrictions on domestic spying instituted since the Church Committee.
And the conspicuous use of the phrase 'anti-terrorism' does send up a red flag, being the standard incantation with which assaults on the liberties and privacy of ordinary citizens are justified.
"The MATRIX pilot project is an effort to increase and enhance the exchange of sensitive terrorism and other criminal activity information between local, state, and federal agencies," the project Web site explains.
The system will use "data analysis and data integration technology to improve the usefulness of information contained in multiple types of document storage systems."
From that it would appear that the scheme is designed to give the Feds what they're not allowed to get simply by re-packaging it and selling it through a back channel. It also looks designed to find and prosecute, perhaps persecute, unfortunate bastards in the name of the American anti-terror Jihad.
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.
The states of Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, and Utah have signed on to the scheme. Residents of other states are safe, for now. ®