You might have thought that when Congress cut funding for the Pentagon’s proposed Total Information Awareness system, which was designed to collect and analyze personal information on millions of Americans from various databases with the idea of detecting signs of possible terrorist activity, that the idea would have died. Not so at all.
The latest manifestation is in the state of Florida, where police are creating a “counterterrrorism” database system dubbed Matrix. (According to news reports, the name is short for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange and was chosen somewhat whimsically by a Florida law enforcement officer, who might not have seen the films and understood that the Matrix therein was the bad guys.)
Officials say the Florida Matrix system could, for instance, “find the name and address of every brown-haired owner of a red pickup within a 20-mile radius of a suspicious event,” according to the Washington Post.
Even Phil Ramer, Florida’s special agent in charge of statewide intelligence, acknowledged that “It’s scary. It could be abused. I mean, I can call up everything about you, your pictures and pictures of your neighbors.”
Ramer promised to use the system with restraint, but also admitted that “Our biggest problem now is everybody who hears about it wants it.”
We have doubts that every law enforcement agency — Ramer was discussing local police departments in Florida — that gets access to Matrix or a similar system will use it with restraint. Unfortunately, the federal Department of Justice has provided a $4 million grant to try to take the system nationwide and the Department of Homeland Security has pledged another $8 million.
Most critics and moviegoers agreed that the sequel to “The Matrix” was a stinker. This sequel to Total Information Awareness has a bad odor as well.