by CIO Staff

FBI Demos Terrorism Database

Aug 30, 20063 mins
IT Strategy

The FBI has constructed a database that houses upwards of 659 million terror-related records drawn from more than 50 of its own sources—as well as those of other government agencies—and it claims the tool is one of the most efficient information analysis systems at the hands of U.S. law enforcement and antiterror officials, reports.

Representatives of the bureau demonstrated the new tool on Tuesday for reporters to showcase its capabilities and to show the agency’s progress in data analysis since the 2001 terror attacks on New York City, according to the Post. The FBI has been accused of failing to detect signs of an impending attack on the city before 9/11, and for its lack of the necessary technology to do so.

The Investigative Data Warehouse has been the target of criticism from a handful of privacy groups and activists since its 2004 launch, due to concerns over the duration of time that information is kept, as well as whether U.S. citizens should be able to access it and correct erroneous information if necessary, the Post reports.

Approximately 25 percent of the information in the database is drawn from FBI sources, and the remaining data, such as suspect financial activity reports and stolen passport data, comes from the U.S. departments of Treasury, State and Homeland Security, according to the Post.

Gurvais Gregg, FBI Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force acting director, said, “That’s where the real knowledge comes from…sharing information,” according to the Post.

Grigg showed off some of the system’s capabilities by typing in the name of one of the Sept. 11 bombers and the words “flight training,” and some 250 articles related to the man were detected, the Post reports.

Amherst, Mass.-based Chiliad developed the system, and Grigg said it can be used to send agents notifications whenever relevant information is added, according to the Post. Various forms of records, including Social Security numbers and driver’s license information, among others, can be cross-referenced across the database’s millions of filings, though no top secret information is housed there, according to the Post.

Until 2002, officials would’ve had to spend some 32,000 hours checking 1,000 names and birthdays across 50 databases, but now the task can be performed in a half hour, Grigg said, the Post reports.

Roughly 13,000 officials use the database every month, making some 1 million queries, Grigg said, according to the Post.

For an additional layer of security, the system never actually accesses the database; rather, it connects to copies of database records that are updated frequently, Grigg said, the Post reports.

Grigg also said that all information within the database has been reviewed by the appropriate security, legal and IT staffers, and the bureau has drawn up an information privacy impact document, according to the Post.

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