A Los Angeles police motorcycle officer stopped a car for speeding. He noticed that the driver was sweating and gripping the steering wheel nervously, while refusing to answer basic questions. The Wall Street Journal says that matched a profile the officer had learned to identify behaviors associated with terrorism. The officer reported the driver’s international license information and learned the man was “an individual of interest” in a terrorism investigation. Los Angeles analysts log information on suspicious behavior into a central database using standardized labels, enabling police to analyze patterns.
The model is getting attention nationwide. Washington, D.C., police plan to introduce a version of the program next month in advance of Inauguration Day. The director of national intelligence is working to expand the Los Angeles model to 12 other cities and states, as part of a federal pilot program. The goal is to allow multicity searches, as each locality will be using the same set of categories to log their reports. Officials hope to link the threat databases for the states of Virginia, New York, and Florida. Other cities that will adopt the system include Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and Miami. Michael German, a former FBI agent now at the American Civil Liberties Union, said some behaviors on the Los Angeles police list, such as photographing buildings or espousing extremist views, could be innocent activity or First Amendment-protected behavior.