The FBI wants to compile a massive computer database and analyze it for clues to unmask terrorist sleeper cells. Two congressmen are worried about whether the bureau will protect the privacy of U.S. citizens, reports the Associaed Press. Reps. Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the chairman and ranking Republican on the House Science and Technology investigations subcommittee, asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the proposal. Miller and Sensenbrenner questioned both the FBI’s ability to manage such a large trove of data properly and whether predictive data-mining even works or just falsely casts suspicion on innocent people.
The FBI wants $12 million in the year beginning Oct. 1 for its Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force to set up a National Security Branch Analysis Center, with 59 employees, including 23 contractors and five FBI agents. The Justice Department says the center will hold 6 billion records by 2012 and “the universe of subjects will expand exponentially.” That would equal “20 separate ‘records’ for each man, woman and child in the United States,” the congressmen said. They said the program resembles the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness anti-terror data-mining research program. Congress ended that in 2003 out of privacy concerns, but much of its research was transferred to secret accounts in other agencies. Miller and Sensenbrenner quoted Jeff Jonas, a data-mining expert and IBM engineer, as saying data-mining for terrorism discovery “would waste taxpayer dollars, needlessly infringe on privacy and civil liberties and misdirect the valuable time and energy of the men and women in the national security community.”