MATRIX Grant for terrorism database expires

Several states opted out because of privacy concerns, legal issues or cost.
HARRISBURG (AP) -- A three-year-old crime and terrorism database that collected billions of pieces of data on Americans and came under fire from privacy advocates closed down Friday because a federal grant ran out for Ohio and other states using it.
Elements of the $12 million Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange -- Matrix -- may live on if individual states decide to fund it on their own, said Bob Cummings, executive vice president for the Institute for Intergovernmental Research in Tallahassee, Fla., which helped coordinate the Matrix network.
"We're winding up the project today. The system that the federal government has basically paid for, the application itself to the users and the states, will either be assumed by the states or will no longer exist," he said.
Privacy concerns
Matrix was down to four participants -- Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio and Connecticut -- after several states opted out due to privacy concerns, legal issues or cost. It operated with grant money from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, but that funding expired Friday.
Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, said the state will contract with an element of Matrix called the Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution. It combines all current criminal information databases with information that's commercially available to law enforcement.
The one-year, $259,600 contract will be funded through a federal homeland security grant, she said. The service will be available to about 200 law enforcement agencies statewide.
Norris played down privacy concerns, saying the Matrix program is no different than traditional criminal database programs.
Scaling down
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a press release that it would continue to use one component of the Matrix.
A news release about Matrix issued by the Pennsylvania State Police on Friday said there have been 1.9 million queries to the system since July 2003, and states may continue to use one of the system's components. That component, which Florida said it will use, allows investigators to search for information based on incomplete data, such as a portion of a vehicle license number and description or a name and date of birth.
The system has assisted in terror-related investigations and helped identify drug suspects, solve home-invasion cases and locate fugitives, according to the release.

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