Utah withdraws from anti-terrorism network

Utah has joined a growing list of states that are abandoning an anti-terrorism information sharing system endorsed by the federal government.

Utah Gov. Olene Walker said March 26 the state will not renew its participation in the Multistate Anti-terrorism Information Exchange, Matrix.

Walker's announcement follows her Jan. 29 decision to postpone Utah's involvement in Matrix until a review committee examined the program.

"Based on the recommendation of the review committee, and also upon the information I have received, I have informed state agencies we will not reinstate our participation in Matrix," Walker said. "I understand law enforcement officials need to share information regarding criminal activity, but there are privacy and funding concerns I had to consider."

Utah is the 11th state to withdraw from the federal pilot program for either privacy or financial reasons, according to the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union. Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are still participating.

The other states that have withdrawn from Matrix are Alabama, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Oregon, South Carolina Texas and Wisconsin, the ACLU said.

Matrix began as a way for a handful of states under the leadership of Florida to share certain types of data for criminal investigation purposes in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The federally funded system combines information about persons and property from commercial databases with information from criminal records and other state databases to identify potential terrorists.

The ACLU objects to Matrix on the grounds that it may violate civil liberties. The organization contends that the program's creators have refused to describe the contents of the database and to satisfactorily explain what data will be compiled, who will have access to it and what standards would trigger the creation of a dossier on an individual.

Utah began discussions regarding the Matrix program following the terrorist attacks, the governor's office said. State agencies began providing information to the federal pilot program in July 2003.

The information provided by the state includes criminal history information, motor vehicle title and registration information, and Department of Corrections' offender records and images.

The review committee recommended that Utah stop participating in the program until adequate oversight could be established. The state legislature should determine what constitutes adequate oversight, the committee said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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