Wired reports on a data-mining system used by the FBI. Wired got information on the National Security Branch Analysis Center program by analyzing more than 800 pages of documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.
A fast-growing FBI data-mining system billed as a tool for hunting terrorists is being used in hacker and domestic criminal investigations, and now contains tens of thousands of records from private corporate databases, including car-rental companies, large hotel chains and at least one national department store, declassified documents obtained by Wired.com show.
Headquartered in Crystal City, Virginia, just outside Washington, the FBI’s National Security Branch Analysis Center (NSAC) maintains a hodgepodge of data sets packed with more than 1.5 billion government and private-sector records about citizens and foreigners, the documents show, bringing the government closer than ever to implementing the “Total Information Awareness” system first dreamed up by the Pentagon in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Such a system, if successful, would correlate data from scores of different sources to automatically identify terrorists and other threats before they could strike. The FBI is seeking to quadruple the known staff of the program. […]
It’s unclear how the FBI got the records. In the past, companies have been known to voluntarily hand over customer data to government data-mining experiments — notably, in 2002, JetBlue secretly provided a Pentagon contractor with 5 million passenger itineraries, for which it later apologized. But the FBI also has broad authority to demand records under the Patriot Act, using so-called “national security letters” — a kind of self-issued subpoena that’s led to repeated abuses being uncovered by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
You should read the entire story. The news gathered by Wired is incredible.