[Ppnews] FBI Plans Initiative To Profile Terrorists

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jul 11 16:59:03 EDT 2007

FBI Plans Initiative To Profile Terrorists
Potential Targets Get Risk Rating

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 11, 2007; A08

Bureau of Investigations is developing a computer-profiling system 
that would enable investigators to target possible terror suspects, 
according to a 
Department report submitted to Congress yesterday.

The System to Assess Risk, or STAR, assigns risk scores to possible 
suspects based on a variety of information, similar to the way a 
credit bureau assigns a rating based on a consumer's spending 
behavior and debt. The program focuses on foreign suspects but also 
includes data about some U.S. residents. A prototype is expected to 
be tested this year.

Justice Department officials said the system offers analysts a 
powerful new tool for finding possible terrorists. They said it is an 
effort to automate what analysts have been doing manually.

"STAR does not label anyone a terrorist," the report said. "Only 
individuals considered emergent foreign threats (as opposed to other 
criminal activity such as U.S. bank robbery threats) will be analyzed."

Some lawmakers said, however, that the report raises new questions 
about the government's power to use personal information and 
intelligence without accountability.

"The Bush administration has expanded the use of this technology, 
often in secret, to collect and sift through Americans' most 
sensitive personal information," said 
Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the 
Judiciary Committee, which received a copy of the report on 
data-mining initiatives.

The use of data mining in the war on terror has sparked criticism. An 
airplane-passenger screening program called CAPPS II was revamped and 
renamed because of civil liberty concerns. An effort to collect 
Americans' personal and financial data called Total Information 
Awareness was killed.

Law enforcement and national security officials have continued 
working on other programs to use computers to sift through 
information for signs of threats. The 
of Homeland Security, for example, flags travelers entering and 
leaving the United States who may be potential suspects through a 
risk-assessment program called the Automated Targeting System.

STAR is being developed by the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task 
Force, which tracks suspected terrorists inside the country or as they enter.

Both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI's STAR programs 
create their ratings based on certain rules. In the case of STAR, a 
person's score would increase if his or her name matches one on a 
terrorist watch list, for example. A country of origin could also be 
weighted in a person's score.

After STAR has received the names of persons of interest, it runs 
them through an FBI "data mart" that includes classified and 
unclassified information from the government, airlines and commercial 
data brokers such as 
Then it runs them through the terrorist screening center database, 
which contains hundreds of thousands of names, as well as through a 
database containing information on non-citizens who enter the 
country. It also runs the names against information provided by data 
broker Accurint, which tracks addresses, phone numbers and driver's licenses.

The report said access to STAR would be limited to trained users and 
that data would be obtained lawfully. Results would be kept within 
the FBI's terrorist task force, the report said.

Privacy expert David Sobel, senior counsel for the nonprofit advocacy 
Frontier Foundation, said the government's system depends on 
potentially unreliable data. "If we can't assess the accuracy of the 
information being fed into the system, it's very hard to assess the 
effectiveness of the system."

The STAR system would be subject to a privacy-impact assessment 
before launched in final form.

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