Don't Enter the Matrix

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The Rocky Mountain News' Linda Seebach writes up our June issue but, more interestingly, throws in a bunch of information about the aborted Matrix airline-passenger-profiling program. She writes:

The Associated Press reported May 20 that a data-sharing pilot project called Matrix (for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange) had demonstrated for federal and state officials, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, a "high terrorist factor" scoring system.

Sorting through 4 billion records, it came up with the names of the 120,000 people with the highest scores and sent them to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI and other agencies.

The company developing the scoring system, Seisint Inc., claimed that a number of arrests were made as a result.

Creepy? Unconstitutional? Would you feel better about it if you knew the company also claimed that among the 80 people with the highest scores, five were among the 9/11 hijackers?

Whole thing here. The site for Matrix is here.

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  1. Isn't the correct acronym for the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange "MATIE"? Where the heck did they take the R from?

    I kinda like the idea of a government program named MATIE, tbh.

  2. It is amazing how little guv'mint types think about branding. From Carnivore to Matrix to, for Chrissakes PNAC, they would have to try really hard to do worse.

    They all need a little sign that reminds them: "Do not feed the crazies."

  3. Really, the better questions to ask where "How did the other terror suspects score?", "How many arrests?", and "How did I score on this thing?"

  4. Uh, what about the other 14 hijackers?

  5. And how did Mo score? We know he's of Arab descent, and he's admitted to having a wild past.

  6. It is amazing how little guv'mint types think about branding. From Carnivore to Matrix to, for Chrissakes PNAC, they would have to try really hard to do worse.

    Don't forget the "PIRATE" bill.

  7. Um, yeah, we could also start rounding up black males between the ages of 21 and 35 with criminal records, and a few of them might be wanted suspects too. Does that make it right? Fuck no. There are many ways to defend against terrorism that don't involve this civil-rights-raping idea. I'm sorry, no, it wouldn't matter if the system happened to claim every 9/11 hijacker (which it didn't, not even half). That isn't the point.

  8. I think the 9/11 hijackers should have scored 1-19 on this list. If they didn't, maybe that's an opportunity to hone the formula.

  9. What's up with the other 75?

  10. Am I the only one that was sent to myfamily.com as "the Matrix"?

    I agree with what Evan says, well put.

    thoreau,
    I don't know, but I loved my chemistry set as a kid (not to mention the supply stores), built model rockets and was a thorn in my high school administration's side, so it could be pretty bad. However, I am a citizen, with a clean record (just because I was wild, doesn't mean the feds know) and multiple job related FBI background checks, so I'm sure I'm clean.

    So my question is why did she pick the top 80? Seems like a pretty arbitrary number. Were the hijackers all between 70 and 80?

  11. So, how do we stop terrorist hijacking of airplanes?

    Search everyone who wants to get on planes?

    Subjectively search people based on opour personal prejudices?

    Racially profile?

    Mine publicly available data to provide indicia of suspicious activity - like frequent travel to Pakistan and Yemen, for instance?

    Or ought we to just throw up our hands and say "screw it, the price of freedom is letting three or four thousand of our law abiding, productive citizens get slaughtered like sheep from time to time, probably with increasing frequency?

  12. So, how do we stop terrorist hijacking of airplanes?

    Search everyone who wants to get on planes?

    Subjectively search people based on opour personal prejudices?

    Racially profile?

    Mine publicly available data to provide indicia of suspicious activity - like frequent travel to Pakistan and Yemen, for instance?

    Or ought we to just throw up our hands and say "screw it, the price of freedom is letting three or four thousand of our law abiding, productive citizens get slaughtered like sheep from time to time, probably with increasing frequency?

  13. The homeland security types have limited resources with which to work. Would you rather have them track the top 200 people on this terrorist list (not "round them up" unless they commit actual crimes), or do something else? If you would rather have them do something else, explain how that "something else" will help stop terrorism.

    My guess is that if data mining is prevented, the "something else" will end up violating more severely the privacy and the rights of people who are more innocent.

    The alternative of doing nothing also will wind up with a lot of innocent people losing their privacy, their rights--and their lives.

  14. This Matrix thing isn't to far off from that infamous Vietnam war quote, "Kill them all and let god sort them out." Maybe in this case it is, "arrest them all and let Ashcroft sort them out." It has a very chilling affect when you are absolutely innocent yet get caught up with a high score or get put onto a watch list.

    Or ought we to just throw up our hands and say "screw it, the price of freedom is letting three or four thousand of our law abiding, productive citizens get slaughtered like sheep from time to time, probably with increasing frequency?

    It appears you are fucked either way. You can have your databases and watch lists at the expense of thousands of innocents getting added. Sure they won't die, but their lives may certainly be over by the stigma of rumours and allegations of their detention and interogation as suspected terrorists. The humilation alone may result in suicide.

  15. multiple job related FBI background checks

    Am I correct in guessing that you have a job requiring a security clearance? An Arab with a security clearance? My God, what will we do?!?!

    I'm just kidding, obviously.

  16. What's wrong with compiling of list of people we don't like, say the top thousand or so, and do away with them. When we're done with that, we'll still have a list with a top thousand on it and we can do away with those. Repeat procedure until... oh wait, some country tried that about sixty years ago. The repercussions seem to be part of the current problem.

  17. I think this program's principles are based on pop culture. It's full of references to movies, for example. It's possible that they have "sensifer/sense offender" criteria (as in "Equilibrium").
    To me, this relationship was more direct than with The Matrix trilogy. But I think (I won't say I believe because it doesn't sound good for a good guy) that the shortcut chosen, The Matrix, suggests that we'd better take plain use of cyberculture. Like, don't come into the matrix, be in it, live in, it is only in it. Do only what you can jornalistically, cientifically and legally affirm as prudent. Otherwise you're suspect. They (of the program) might consider you suspect if you don't act as cyberculture allows.

    Wow.

  18. I think Mr. Kling's and Mr. Fetchet's are good considerations. Seems like they (you) are paying attention!

    If I had to choose just one word to put into objetcion the news about the program it would be "amazing". Do ideas about synchronization and completion come into your consideration?

    Today I read a newspaper column about the 1987 book telling the meta-plans of the US elite for the next maaany years. I'm not sure it has to do exactly with the program, but...

    At all, informations from various ranges, sources, types and positionings all come into my mind telling me "see, it's happening".

    Hey "The Matrix" guys, I'm not millenarist, ok? I'm just cyberculturist. Is it still allowed without suspection?

  19. There are many ways to defend against terrorism that don't involve this civil-rights-raping idea.

    Which of your civil rights does Matrix violate?

  20. This Matrix thing isn't to far off from that infamous Vietnam war quote, "Kill them all and let god sort them out."

    That "infamous Vietnam quote" was said by the Abbot of Citeaux during the Albigensian Crusade of 1209. 🙂

  21. Am I stupid for thinking that the risk of hijackings is now substantially lower following Sep 11, as passengers will now be more prepared to attack the hijackers and avoid meeting large buildings instead of sitting passively?

  22. It's possible, Kid -- in fact, it's probable. But it's also possible that terrorists will work on more aggressive techniques combined with methods -- biologicals, for example -- to neutralize the passengers in advance. Which is a good argument for guns in the cockpit, as it happens, at least the way I see it.

  23. Am I stupid for thinking that the risk of hijackings is now substantially lower following Sep 11, as passengers will now be more prepared to attack the hijackers

    The best that passengers have managed thus far, when confronted with a team of prepared and determined hijackers (as opposed to a lone nut like the shoe-bomber), has been to crash the plane and kill everyone on board. While that's certainly better than crashing the plane INTO something and killing everyone inside that as well, it's still not desirable. In fact, if we weren't "grading on a curve" against 9/11, we'd have to concede that such a plane crash would, itself, qualify as a horrific terrorist attack.

    But of course, would the passengers even fight back? I doubt it. The passengers fought back on 9/11 because they knew for a fact that they were all going to die if they didn't; future hijacking victims won't know that.

    The decision to fight back against a team of hijackers is the decision to commit almost certain suicide. Most people need to KNOW they have no alternative, before they're willing to try something like that.

  24. Can't stop laughing about MATIE.

    I see a more laid back Hawaiian uniform for TSA. With a parrot.

  25. Dan-
    Thanks for the historical reference on the quote, I didn't know that, but does make absolute sense.

    But of course, would the passengers even fight back? I doubt it. The passengers fought back on 9/11 because they knew for a fact that they were all going to die if they didn't; future hijacking victims won't know that.

    If cockpit doors are to remain locked during flight and not opened under any circumstance now, then terrorists can't get access and take over the plane. And if I am on that plane, with my heavy ass dinosaur laptop in its bag, I am coming swinging. Assuming of course the TSA didn't blow it again and let some folks on armed to the teeth.

  26. Not sure how I feel about The Matrix, except that they would have been hard-pressed to come up with a more off-putting name. How about "1984"?

  27. If cockpit doors are to remain locked during flight and not opened under any circumstance now, then terrorists can't get access and take over the plane.

    They could blow the door open. Or they could follow the following procedure:

    First group of terrorists: hijacks plane. Threatens to detonate a bomb unless they are given access to the cockpit. Crew refuses, passengers fight back, boom. Later, the black box reveals what took place.

    Second group of terrorists: hijacks plane. Repeats ultimatum. Is allowed into the cockpit by the flight crew.

    Etc, etc. There are countless ways that suicial and sociopathic individuals can force normal people to do what they want.

    Assuming of course the TSA didn't blow it again and let some folks on armed to the teeth.

    They will, in fact, "blow it again". It's just a matter of time. Indeed, they routinely fuck up even now, according to independent tests. But even if they were absolutely perfect that the job they're allowed to do, that wouldn't cut it. The only way to prevent a terrorist from hijacking a plane is to prevent them from getting on the plane in the first place -- the Israeli method. As this thread, and other threads, demonstrate, people are vehemently opposed to giving the government the power to do that. "Gathering data on potential terrorists" apparently violates the Zeroth Amendment or something.

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