More is Better: The Analytic Case for a Robust Suspicious Activity Reports Program
Steiner, James E.
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In his March 2009 testimony, Gregory Nojeim warned Congress of the potential danger to civil liberties posed by the government's suspicious activity report (SAR) program. But Nojeim, director of the Project on Freedom, Security, ; Technology, raised another concern -- that 'the security 'bang per byte' of information gathered may be diminishing. While 'stove piping' was yesterday's problem, tomorrow's problem may be 'pipe clogging,' as huge amounts of information are being gathered without apparent focus.' [...]. A subsequent CRS [Congressional Research Service] study, in November 2009, endorsed Nojeim's suggestion questioning the need for a data-intensive program and made a similar recommendation: 'Congress may be interested in how a future SAR Program Management Office intends to address this problem -- specifically, which agency or agencies will be responsible for quality control of SARs [sic] to prevent system overload from irrelevant or redundant ones.' This article acknowledges the progress made in protecting civil rights -- an area of legitimate concern -- but rejects categorically the call to reduce or limit the size of the SAR program. Two analytic requirements for the collection of more rather than less information through the SAR process are presented, to increase the probability of identifying pre-operational terrorist activity and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of critical infrastructure protection regimes. In statistical analysis, more is better.
This article appeared in Homeland Security Affairs (September 2010), v.6 no.3
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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