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Controversial Matrix Database Closing Down

Associated Press | April 16 2005

Comment: Although it's not really closing down as you will find out by reading the article. The Devil's biggest trick was making the world believe he didn't exist.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A three-year-old crime and terrorism database that collected billions of pieces of data on Americans and came under fire from privacy advocates is closing down Friday because a federal grant ran out.

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.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a press release that it would continue to use one component of the Matrix.

"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.

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.

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 that 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.