Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Minor Setback for Big Brother?

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Matrix System Major Flop Multistate Database Has Fallen Apart
May 31, 2005 By TRACY GORDON FOX, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Police said it was an important tool to thwart terrorism.But just a few years after the Matrix system was introduced, the multistate database loaded with criminal and government records has fallen apart, leaving only three participating states.

Connecticut abandoned the system last month because its federal funding expired, and police say it could be years before a similar system becomes available. Nationwide, Matrix was supported with $12 million in federal grants.

Matrix, which stands for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, combined criminal, motor vehicle and other government records from participating states with billions of commercial files held by a private Florida company, Seisint Inc. The system could produce dossiers on individuals, including property and business records, within minutes.

Connecticut's withdrawal from Matrix was applauded by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it would resist efforts to establish similar databases.

"I'm glad to see Connecticut has withdrawn," said Barry Steinhardt, director of ACLU's technology and liberty program, "but it doesn't mean the concern is dead."

Police, however, say the loss of Matrix eliminates a useful investigative tool.

"Information is our lifeblood," said West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci, president of the Connecticut Chiefs of Police Association.

"Having more information available and having it distilled would make our jobs easier."

Connecticut's public safety commissioner, Leonard C. Boyle, said the federal government is working on a system that could be a substitute for Matrix.

"I think a system that allows an investigator to use a single database and acquire public information from other entities is a valuable tool," Boyle said. Boyle said state police are considering sharing a database with Pennsylvania, but he said any replacement is at least a year away.

Besides being expensive, Matrix was criticized by civil libertarians who maintained that it was unreliable and contained too much sensitive information about law-abiding people.

State police said there were no violations of privacy or civil rights laws during the Matrix pilot program in Connecticut. Sgt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman, said Matrix helped identify suspects and find missing people and property.

Legislators, too, remain skeptical about the database's privacy implications, said Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, co-chairman of the legislature's public safety committee.

"The Department of Justice is trying to work with state legislatures and government to come forward with a plan on a national level where we could share information with the understanding of the concerns about Big Brother," Dargan said.

"They are trying to work on that, but it's still a few years away."

James Thomas, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said state troopers assigned to his agency had been using Matrix.

"Without it, it is just going to take good old-fashioned police work," he said.

"We'll look at any alternatives that come up, but no matter what, you still need to do the work."

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Blogger's Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials- notice

Steven G. Erickson aka Vikingas Office, Contact Information, and Favorite Links

A post where a high ranking Connecticut State Police Officer debates me on the merits of the M.A.T.R.I.X. system.
Post also discusses racial harassment of minority officers

Free Coffee, Free Food, Almost Free Lodging, having sex with prostitutes, and breaking the laws with little to no consequences

Reasons to Abolish the Connecticut State Police

Are U.S. Courts still racist, but now just a little more slick about it?

A Judge with Morals, a Target of a Corrupt State Police

More Sleaze in Corrupticut

Does the Connecticut State Police Internal Affairs allow Gay Bashing within the ranks?

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