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Homeland Security Secretary says computer project not 'data mining'

Saturday, March 10, 2007

HOOVER, Ala. -- A new Homeland Security program aims to analyze existing, legally collected computer data, not gather new personal information on U.S. citizens, Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday in defending the program from congressional critics.

The project, still in pilot stage, will help investigators understand evidence gathered through subpoenas but won't troll computers for new, private information, Chertoff said.

"It's an experiment to see how you can better analyze data that you already have, that you've already legally collected, to see if you can understand it, sort it and make use of it more readily than simply doing it manually," Chertoff said.

Called ADVISE -- for Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement -- the program can be used to find "relationships or patterns" from information including financial and telephone records, he said.

"This is not a program that sucks up or collects information from out on the Internet or anything like that," Chertoff said during an appearance in Alabama. "It's not data mining."

Congress has limited the Pentagon's ability to implement a computerized anti-terrorism program amid privacy concerns, but Chertoff said the Homeland Security project is a "completely different program."

The Washington Times reported Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wisc., has asked the Government Accountability office to investigate the ADVISE project, and both Republicans and Democrats have pushed for more oversight of government information gathering. Messages seeking comment were left with Obey's office.

Chertoff said a review of the test project would include an analysis of privacy concerns. The pilot has been going on "for some time," and no date is set for implementing the program, said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the agency.

Chertoff was in metro Birmingham for the groundbreaking at a new center that will teach law enforcement how to gather information from computers for use in court cases. The National Computer Forensics Institute will train about 1,000 people nationwide annually.


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