Activist group sues US border agency over new, vast intelligence system
CBP never responded to request for info on “Analytical Framework for Intelligence.”
By Cyrus Farivar
EPIC’s lawsuit, which was filed last Friday, seeks a trove of documents concerning the “Analytical Framework for Intelligence” (AFI) as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. EPIC’s April 2014 FOIA request went unanswered after the 20 days that the law requires, and the group waited an additional 49 days before filing suit.
The AFI, which was formally announced in June 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), consists of “a single platform for research, analysis, and visualization of large amounts of data from disparate sources and maintaining the final analysis or products in a single, searchable location for later use as well as appropriate dissemination.”
The new system appears to be a one-stop shop for classified and nonclassified materials and can include a target’s name, address, race, physical characteristics, gender, social security number, family relationships, occupation, and more. The AFI went into effect in August 2012.
The June 2012 announcement in the Federal Register states, “The purpose of this system is to enhance DHS’s ability to: Identify, apprehend, and/or prosecute individuals who pose a potential law enforcement or security risk; aid in the enforcement of the customs and immigration laws, and other laws enforced by DHS at the border; and enhance United States security.”
EPIC did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for further comment.
In an e-mail, CBP spokeswoman Erlinda Byrd told Ars, “CBP cannot comment on pending/ongoing cases.”
“Significant increase in arrests and disrupts”
A DHS report from earlier this year stated that the AFI “augments CBP’s ability to gather and develop information about persons, events, and cargo of interest by creating an index of the relevant data in the existing operational systems and providing AFI analysts with different tools that assist in identifying non-obvious relationships.”
The report also described how initial testing of the AFI “along the Southwest border” yielded “valuable assistance to ongoing operations.” The report said:
For example, a user from the California Corridor Campaign received an unclassified Intel Alert notification from AFI based on the alerts the individual was monitoring. The analysis showed that the alert mentioned that the user’s area of responsibility was being utilized to smuggle narcotics. The Intel Alert was distributed through chain of command and specific targeting was initiated by the Cargo Analysis Research Investigative Team unit. Seven days later, the Calexico port-of-entry commercial facility interdicted and seized 1265.86 kilograms of marijuana.
In another instance, an AFI user analyzed narcotics and weapon seizures, alien apprehensions, and assaults on CBP personnel while on duty to determine how best to allocate resources. The user analyzed the locations and times when the highest rates of seizures occurred with the lowest rates of assaults on CBP personnel. The information from this analysis was imported into AFI’s analytical tool and exported into geospatial and temporal graphs. This work resulted in a significant increase in arrests and disrupts.
The suit comes as I recently published the results of my own FOIA request to CBP for my passenger name records, which revealed years of records. In some cases, those included:
- The IP address that I used to buy the ticket
- My credit card number (in full)
- The language I used
- Notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change
I will be filing a new FOIA request in attempt to find out what information, if any, the AFI maintains on me.