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Phil Ryan to John Vasconcellos re David Boulton's comments on 'What If' - Ethics 3

John & David,
Here's a quick reply to David's email comments.
Phil Ryan

            As a constitutional lawyer of more than three decades and whose original net worth arose from my defense of the now badly tattered 4th Amendment, I’d like to volunteer for your trusting circle on the “privacy frontier.” But before commenting on the privacy issue, I must correct the notion that the technical aspects of intelligence data sharing has existed in a meaningful and timely way. There are forty-three federal agencies presently dealing with terrorism. Not only do these intelligence databases not talk to each other, as Senators Schumer, Clinton and Feinstein have pointed out, proposals for data warehousing will cost billions of dollars, five to ten years to produce and the intelligence will never be current. Callixa’s software, on the other hand, creates a virtual data warehouse and provides intelligence information instantaneously in real time.

            I share David’s concern that the Bush administration and particularly the Attorney General have used the 9-11 horror to constrict our civil liberties and civil rights. It is also my view that this contraction of American liberties has added absolutely nothing to the war against terror. Ironically and sadly, any restrictions on our civil liberties must be considered a victory for the September 11th terrorists.

David appears to make two privacy points which I’d like the address. The first is the privacy issue at the airport. Callixa built a prototype for SFO using the existing airlines technology. Airline ticketing is done on a thirty year old computer system. Some years ago, the FAA and Northwest Airlines came up with the CAPS system, which frankly, is an ethnic and racial profiling system that is now being used by many airlines. The ACLU and other privacy advocates opposed this system and, frankly, I agree with them. To give you an example of the crudeness of airport intelligence, a few days after September 11th, a passenger purchased a ticket for Israel at SFO. The airlines’ computer found that he had flown more than 200,000 miles in a year, primarily to the Middle East. A 917 call (airport version of 911 calls) was made to SFPD. The police responded, only to discover that the passenger was the CEO of Intel, which has plants in Israel! Callixa’s technology does not rely on suspect passenger profiles or computer data from private carriers.

Here’s how the Callixa Threat Detector works as demonstrated to SFPD. The local police department is the sponsor and licensee. When a passenger’s name is entered into the carrier’s ticketing computer, the police Threat Detector instantaneously checks the name against any law enforcement databases of terrorist suspect to which the police have been granted access. If there is no match, ticketing proceeds as usual. If, on the other hand, Boston police had had the Threat Detector on September 11th, Mohammed Otta, on CIA and INS watch lists, would have been prevented from boarding the deadly flight.[1] And the CEO of Intel would not have been pulled out of the ticket line. Moreover, because Callixa’s software is a virtual database/warehouse, the millions of passengers checked at ticket counters are not even a blip on the screen.

David’s point that this should be limited to boarding airlines, at first glance, seems a valid one. It should be noted, however, that a present the FBI still functions under the J. Edgar Hoover culture of denying local police vital intelligence information. The real problem will be changing the federal mentality to recognize that homeland security while keeping local police ignorant of terror intelligence is doomed to failure and further tragedy. With respect to containing the Threat Detector to airports, this is simply a matter of code restrictions and recognition that airport security is both a local and federal responsibility. As for local police extending the technology to routine police stops, it should be noted that police for twenty years have had the technical capacity to run warrant checks, CLETTS checks and now computerized fingerprint checks. Again, note that Callixa’s data integration is virtual and therefore not a gatherer and storer of information.

Indeed, Callixa’s Threat Detector is the only proposal I know of that protects the civil liberties and privacy of everyone screened by the technology. Only the bad guys get caught.

If you’d like, I can arrange a demonstration like the one we’ve provided SFPD for you, your staff and, most certainly for any civil libertarians like David.

My best,

Phil Ryan

[1] It is vital to note that California law enforcement routinely runs computer checks on CLETTS and through the FBI fingerprint database. Under federal and state laws, only law enforcement officers are entitled to investigative materials. The Threat Detector simply communicates existing law enforcement information to law enforcement officers at the airport before dangerous terrorists board. Any citizen or non-citizen not already a suspect will not even register on police screens.

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