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John Daley ReportingAfter two other states pulled out last week an official working with a national crime and terrorism database called Matrix tried to rescue Utah's involvement in the project today. But the effort could be falling on deaf ears.
After September 11th, work began on linking databases from states around the country in hopes of preventing it from happening again. Then-Utah Governor Mike Leavitt helped spearhead the effort.
It was not exactly a secret, but it wasn't widely trumpeted either and some top lawmakers said they had been left out of the loop when the controversial project got renewed scrutiny earlier this year.
Governor Olene Walker put MATRIX on hold, and today a review committee started examining the program's origins and its future, hearing from a top Florida official leading the MATRIX effort.
He says the program dynamically combines public and commercially available data with state-owned data--allowing a variety of record searches for things like a person’s driver's license, vehicle, corporation, property deeds, civil court search, sex offender, professional licenses, corrections, criminal records and more.
Citing privacy concerns a number of states have dropped out of MATRIX, but Mark Zadra insists the program is not "imploding” and that comparisons with Big Brother are overblown.
Mark Zadra, Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement: "We're not monitoring individuals. I don't know where they come and where they go. It's simply information that they are required to provide by law."
No doubt MATRIX is a powerful police tool, but committee members wonder about the potential for mischief while citizen watchdogs worry about oversight.”
Rep. John Dougall, (R) Utah County: “Any system, any process is prone to abuse. How do we eliminate or greatly minimize any chance for that?”
Steve Erickson, Citizen Education Project: "There has been no oversight. No public participation to curtail potential abuses that might arise."
The bottom line--as one participant pointed out today--it all comes down to: do you trust law enforcement to properly share information?
The MATRIX Review Committee made no recommendations today. It meets again next week.