The FBI is gathering information about Americans to help search for potential terrorists, insurance cheats, and crooked pharmacists, says a Justice Department report to Congress quoted by the Associated Press. Records about identity thefts, real estate transactions, motor vehicle accidents, and complaints about Internet drug companies are being searched for common threads to aid law enforcement officials, the department said.
The report disclosed government plans to build a new database to assess the risk posed by people identified as potential or suspected terrorists. The chairman of the Senate committee said the database was “ripe for abuse.” The American Civil Liberties Union derided the quality of the information that could be used to score someone as a terror threat. The report marked the department’s first public detailing of six of its data-mining tools, which look for patterns to catch criminals. All but one database — the one to track terrorists — have been up and running for several years. The exception is the System to Assess Risk, or STAR, program to rate the threat posed by people identified as suspected terrorists or named on terror watch lists. The system, still under construction, is designed to help investigators save time by narrowing the field of people who pose the greatest potential threat and will not label anyone a terrorist, a Justice official said.