The New York Times The New York Times Technology March 25, 2003  

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Data Expert Is Cautious About Misuse of Information

By STEVE LOHR

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., March 24 As the government gears up its domestic security program, the chief executive of a venture capital firm founded by the Central Intelligence Agency warned today of the danger of amassing a large, unified database that would be available to government investigators as some technology executives have advocated.

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"I think it's very dangerous to give the government total access," said Gilman Louie, chief executive of In-Q-Tel, a venture fund established by the C.I.A. in 1999.

Besides, the real lesson learned from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Louie said, was that the intelligence failure was not so much that the government had too little information but that the information held by different government agencies was not linked, shared and analyzed.

It is already clear that a part of the vast amounts of personal and commercial data housed in government and corporation will increasingly be used in terrorist-related government investigations. But there is a vigorous debate over what data should be collected and how it should be used to balance the interests of national security with personal privacy and individual freedom.

Speaking at the PC Forum, an annual gathering of corporate technology executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, Mr. Louie said there were two different paths being pursued toward data surveillance by the government.

First, there is what he termed the "data mining or profiling" approach. This involves collecting large amounts of data like credit card and air travel information and then sorting the data by names, buying habits or travel plans looking for patterns.

The data mining approach, Mr. Louie said, results in the "watch lists" used by law enforcement authorities. If used as the main tool of surveillance, the data mining approach is too blunt an instrument, in Mr. Louie's view, and one likely to needlessly undermine individual freedom. "The policy has not been defined for how you get on or off these watch lists," he said.

Mr. Louie said that he had friends who after the terrorists attacks have been interrogated at length and sometimes missed flights because they matched certain characteristics that put them on a watch list. "They have Arabic names," he said, "they are naturalized citizens and because they are investment bankers they buy one-way tickets."

The second way to use database technology to detect threats is what he called the data analysis approach. The alternative, which Mr. Louie supports, starts with some kind of investigative lead and then uses software tools to scan for links between a person under investigation and known terrorists, in terms of where they live, recent travel and other behavior.

Las Vegas casinos, for example, use data analysis software called NORA, for Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness, for tracking threats to their business links between some patrons and sometimes employees with money launderers, known card counters and individuals with criminal records. The company that developed the NORA software, Systems Research and Development, is one of the companies in which In-Q-Tel has invested.

Data mining, Mr. Louie said, can play a useful role. But he argues that relying on data mining as the principal way to use database technology in fighting terrorism would be a mistake. "This is an ongoing argument," Mr. Louie said, "a big debate right now in government."

In-Q-Tel was established by the C.I.A., in an effort to inject new thinking and technology into the agency. The agency's handling of information had been shaped by the cold war concerns of big power confrontations where the weapons were tanks and missiles, and the security risks tended to be spies and moles.

Information, noted Mr. Louie, a former computer game designer and software executive, was kept in separate database silos so it would not leak or any leak could be quickly contained. Speed of information flow across databases was not a priority.

Yet in a world of quickly shifting terrorist threats, Mr. Louie said, "the agency realized that this stove-piping of information was a security model that was really vulnerable."

Today, In-Q-Tel has invested in 25 companies. At the same time, the Defense Department's advanced research projects agency, or Darpa, and the government's National Imagery and Mapping Agency, or Nima, have also supplied financing to In-Q-Tel for specific programs.

Before Sept. 11, Mr. Louie said, In-Q-Tel was seen within government as an intriguing experiment. "Now, this isn't an experiment," he said. "This is a necessity."





THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE INTELLIGENCE DISPUTE; C.I.A. REJECTS CALL FOR IRAQ REPORT  (October 3, 2002)  $

Pentagon Can't Find Ex-C.I.A. Chief's Disks  (October 10, 2000)  $

Investigation Of Ex-Chief Of the C.I.A. Is Broadened  (September 17, 2000)  $

Navy Pilot's Fate in Gulf War to Be Studied  (June 8, 2000)  $

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