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2005-02-10

No Place to Hide: Award-Winning Journalist Robert O’Harrow Goes Behind the Scenes of Our Emerging Surveillance Society

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O’Harrow explores how the government is teaming up with private companies to collect massive amounts of data on citizens and how, he writes, "More than ever before, the details about our lives are no longer our own. They belong to the companies that collect them, and the government agencies that buy or demand them in the name of keeping us safe." [includes rush transcript]

This week in New York, three members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement were arrested in Brooklyn. At the time of their arrest, the three were monitoring police activities as part of the group"s Copwatch Program and were attempting to film a police beating. They were stopped and arrested on charges of assault and obstruction of governmental administration. The three deny the charges.

Citizens trying to monitor the state. What happens when the state joins with private companies in monitoring you? When you go to work, stop at the store, fly in a plane, or surf the web, you are being watched. They know where you live, the value of your home, the names of your friends and family–even what you read. Where the data revolution meets national security, there is no place to hide.

That is the title of a new book that examines how the government is turning information technologies against its own citizens. We are joined now by Robert O’Harrow, author of "No Place to Hide." He is a reporter for The Washington Post and is an associate of the Center for Investigative Reporting. He was a Pultizer Prize finalist for articles on privacy and technology and a recipient of the 2003 Carnegie Mellon Cyber Security Reporting Award. He joins us from Washington DC.

  • Robert O’Harrow, Jr. , reporter for The Washington Post and is an associate of the Center for Investigative Reporting. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for articles on privacy and technology and a recipient of the 2003 Carnegie Mellon Cyber Security Reporting Award. NoPlaceToHide.net

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by its author, Robert O’Harrow. He’s the reporter for The Washington Post and associate with The Center for Investigative Reporting. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for articles on privacy and technology, and a recipient of the 2003 Carnegie Mellon Cyber Security Reporting Award. He joins us from Washington, DC. Welcome to Democracy Now!

ROBERT O’HARROW, JR.: Thanks for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well this is quite a frightening book, No Place to Hide. Why don’t you start at the beginning? What exactly is happening today?

ROBERT O’HARROW, JR.: Well, we will start at the beginning. It starts, in a sense, in the early 1990’s. It goes along with the explosion in computing power. Everybody knows how cheap and fast and powerful our home computers have become. The same thing happened probably at an even more accelerated rate in the information industry, so that in the 1990’s, these private companies were able to collect literally billions of records. It’s hard to believe, but it’s a amount of information that few people can really reckon. And they did it supposedly — well, actually — primarily to target us for better marketing, to make services for efficient and convenient for us. And to jump forward a little bit, after 9/11 when the government was anxious to prevent another terror attack and we really didn’t know what was going to happen next, the information services jumped into the fray, and offered their help and the government reached out to them. And so we had a marriage of the data revolution in which is what I call it, and the Homeland Security initiatives. The result was, in effect, the jump-starting of a national surveillance system, or a security industrial complex if you will.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob O’Harrow, talk about what the government and companies know when you use your cell phone?

ROBERT O’HARROW, JR.: Well, the way this works is that as we go through our lives, we leave more and more — we’re like comets in a way, we leave a long trail of data behind us. Most of us won’t don’t worry about it or think about it, because it’s routine and the information seems banal because who cares about us, right? When you use your cell phone, you leave a record of when you made the call, who you called, how long you were on the phone, and where roughly you were at the time. The location of the cell phone is becoming more and more precise. So, in some places, it might be up to a mile in some cities. It might be a few blocks. But there’s a general location. When you use your ATM card, you’re leaving a record of obviously where you were, when you used it, the fact that it was you. There’s often a video camera shot of you at that location, which will get back to in a little bit. But more than that, the banks, as a result of the PATRIOT Act, have a legal mandate. They’re required to watch that transaction, and so they are using artificial intelligence to check whether that’s really you using it, to check whether you have ties to unsavory people, to look at the patterns of your financial activity to see if maybe you’re trying to perpetuate money laundering, or if you have ties to terrorism finance. So if there are any suspicious signs at all, they’re sending reports to a very little known branch of the Treasury Department, which is creating a data mine of all of the reports. There are many, many of them now. And they share them with law enforcement across the country, local, state, and federal law enforcement as well at intelligence agencies. When you go to the grocery store and use the discount card when you go through an automatic toll booth; when you call online to get a sweater or pair of jeans; or if you have an adventurous marriage and you buy something fun to use privately with your spouse or your mate, believe it or not, all of that stuff is swept up somewhere, and more and more is available to the information companies to get to know you better, so to speak, or to share or resell. Now, the government doesn’t really care about all of that, but it is routinely tapping billions of records about where you have lived in your entire adult life. I mean, I’m talking every house and apartment, all of the phone numbers that you have had, the cars that you have owned. It can find links between you and me, for example. They can show, by looking into these billions of records, how we’re related. If we know somebody who knew somebody that shared an apartment with somebody we have in common. And they’re using these systems really, I believe, earnestly, to protect us. I have talked to — I have spent time with Viet Dinh, the author of the PATRIOT Act, John Poindexter, lots of counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence guys, as well as with these private company officials. And I do honestly get the feeling that there’s an earnest desire to tap all of this information to protect us. But we all know, we have either heard the great Brandice quote directly or we know this in our guts, which is that we shouldn’t necessarily — we all fear evil-minded ruler, but the real threat in many ways comes from people who are earnest or zealous, but not necessarily completely aware of the ramifications of what they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned John Poindexter, Total Information Awareness, that people pretty much beat back, or so people thought. There was such an open revolt across the political spectrum, the idea of John Ashcroft and John Poindexter recruiting 20 million Americans to spy on each other, the Fed Ex person, the person who delivers your mail take a sneak and peek, and if you see something funny, report back. But when did this actually start, and in fact, are they really doing it just by another name?

ROBERT O’HARROW, JR.: I did spend a lot of time with John Poindexter, and in No Place to Hide, I think people will be surprised at my finding, and I like to think of myself as a pretty tough-minded guy, there’s a human person here. He is very, very earnest about trying to help the United States, but of course, he is a deeply zealous patriot, and he has a view of the world that included thinking about privacy. But in any case, he’s a human person, somebody that I think we need to take on as human, not sort of as the boogeyman that a lot of people made him out to be. What happened with the Information Awareness Office that he headed at the Defense Department was that people sort of recognized the scope of the ambition of the government, and as a consequence, congress undercut the funding because they didn’t trust him because of his role in Iran contra in the Reagan administration. And I won’t go into details about that, but I think people recognized the scandal. And they also didn’t trust the idea that there was going to be this all-seeing office collecting information about people around the world with what they felt was very little oversight. Now, the thing that’s really interesting here is that I have spoken to somebody that was working very closely with John Poindexter at a private company called SAIC. This guy was actually the fellow who invented the concept of Total Information Awareness, and it happened back in the Clinton administration in 1999. And this guy on the record in the book and on tape for that matter, said that in fact, after Poindexter left the post that interest in the intelligence community actually increased, and that he was giving more briefings than ever on the concepts and technology that lay behind their thinking of this system. That’s one thing, and the other thing is that the program may be gone, as I say, but it’s not forgotten. Components of it are very much alive in the black world, in the classified world. And there are components of it that were killed but continue in other agencies so that you see there’s a program called HS-ARPA, Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency. They’re pursuing exactly some of the same things that Poindexter was. There’s a data mining operation at the FBI that very few people have paid attention to. The CIA has a program that’s similar, and of course, the NSA is pursuing a program that involves massive amounts of data. So, I would say that the notion of Total Information Awareness being dead, a lot of people have talked about it, it’s still alive, but in fact, I think I have documented pretty clearly for the first time the extent of the research continuing.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Robert O’Harrow Jr., an award winning Washington Post reporter. His new book is called No Place to Hide. When we come back, we’re going to play a clip of a film called Unconstitutional on this issue. And then talk with Bob O’Harrow about some of the companies that are doing this data mining, the private corporations that are working more and more closely with the state. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go back now to the issue of the government monitoring its own citizens. We’re talking with Robert O’Harrow, Jr. His book is called No Place to Hide, but before we go back to him, just a clip of a documentary produced by Robert Greenwald called Unconstitutional.

NARRATOR: The ACLU is not the only organization that has been silenced by the PATRIOT Act.

ANNE TURNER: If librarians have been approached by the F.B.I., they, of course, can’t say that, because one of the rules in the PATRIOT Act is that you can’t tell, which is terrifying, really.

RYAN COONERTY: What it allows the government to do is to come in and subpoena your customer records to find out what books have been checked out or what books they have bought. It doesn’t allow the bookstore to contact a lawyer to fight it. It’s all done through Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and doesn’t give us an opportunity to stand up for our customers.

ANNE TURNER: At least when you get a subpoena from a local court, because there’s reasonable cause to suspect that someone has broken the law and their library records would contribute to the investigation, that’s what the law used to be. At least you could tell anybody that you had responded to the subpoena.

NARRATOR: They don’t even need reasonable suspicion to obtain records on you. Employment records, medical records and even banking records

DOUGLAS HELLER: The government has deputized the banking industry to spy on American consumers. What we see is the possibility that banks in their — in doing their policing duty for the government are going to be looking at who we are, finding out more information than they ought to. It’s a profitable place for them because they get to sell information about us. You just wonder, are you giving the wrong people too much authority?

NARRATOR: Government agents can now check on who you are sending email to, who you are getting email from, and what websites you visit by claiming it is relevant to an investigation.

DAVID COLE: It requires no showing that the individual whose records are being sought actually engaged in or had any connection to any kind of terrorist conduct. So, it basically makes all of us vulnerable.

FORMER REP. ROBERT BARR: When you look at the PATRIOT Act you are truck struck by the fact that many of its provisions are not limited to fighting terrorism. They affect federal criminal law and procedure generally.

ANTHONY ROMERO: Most Americans believe that the PATRIOT Act was focused on the war on terror. And yet they’re surprised to find that there are portions of the PATRIOT Act that have nothing to do with the war on terror.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the film Unconstitutional. Anthony Romero, the last voice, head of the ACLU. Before that, former republican Congress member Bob Barr, as well as constitutional lawyer, David Cole. Our guest in the Reuters studio in Washington, D.C., is Robert O’Harrow, Jr. A remarkable book he has written, No Place to Hide. Robert O’Harrow, you talk in the book about a company called Axiom. You say, "You may not know Axiom, but it knows a lot about you." Tell us about this company.

ROBERT O’HARROW, JR.: Before I do that, let me make a remark on that film clip. People think that the PATRIOT Act is the front and center, and it is. One thing that I have found and that some of those same people who appeared on that would confirm is that at if the PATRIOT Act were to disappear tomorrow, companies like Axiom, ChoicePoint, Seisint, a lot of these companies would continue rushing ahead, and we would have as difficult an issue to deal with absent the PATRIOT Act as almost as we do with it, because there are really no rules that govern how the government uses these private companies, so that even if the PATRIOT Act strips away some of their ability to get records, the private companies would be able to collect them for the government, and in a sense, the government is outsourcing security and intelligence. Now, one other thing about — before we get to Axiom is that — just to sort of frame this a little differently, people may recall that Eisenhower warned about a military industrial complex in 1961. It’s a great speech. It’s very compelling stuff, because people see how much it applies to our era, if you change the word military industrial complex to security industrial complex. He warned about unaccountable power, and that’s really what we’re dealing with here. It’s not, you know, there’s no great Hoover that I have identified, but it’s a systematic thing that’s creating this power, so that if a Hoover comes along, it’s really going to be able —- it’s going to make what Hoover did look like amateur hours as one of my specialists told me. Now, Axiom—-

AMY GOODMAN: I could only imagine if J. Edgar Hoover got to vacuum up all this information.

ROBERT O’HARROW, JR.: Now, the power, compared to what they were doing when they were trying to undermine political opponents and anti-war activists and women’s rights activists and such, the power to do that now is sort of infinitely beyond what they could do with their paper and the many files they collected and created. It’s really — you know, as I said, it’s something — it’s awesome to behold. It’s not being used in that way now. I don’t see there’s a Hoover out there. In fact, as I said before, I believe that a lot of the people taking advantage of this are working in the nation’s interests, and they’re earnest about it, but you have this partnership that is really remarkable, and few of us really understand it. My advocacy here is very journalistic. It’s that we come to understand this, and deal with it as soon as possible. By the way, Viet Dinh, the author of the PATRIOT Act, Bob Barr, of course, who’s a very conservative civil libertarian, counterterrorism officials, all sorts of people agree with me exactly. And they advocate this, as well. Viet Dinh says the amount of information that’s out there is mind boggling and that the government’s use of it is not properly limited. I just think that’s amazing coming from the author of the PATRIOT Act. Now, Axiom. Axiom is an amazing company based in Little Rock. They are perhaps the largest aggregator of information about private Americans. And they work on behalf of all of the — virtually all of the main banks. They work with retailers. They collect information from hundreds and hundreds of sources so that they have these billions of records that help companies to know you better, to find out more about you. And after 9/11, they reached out to former President Clinton and asked him to make a call to John Ashcroft to help sort of help out the government’s war on terror and then to help ease the way for contracts.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Robert O’Harrow, author of No Place to Hide. Now let’s talk about these government — well, you call it the 'security industrial complex.' We are talking about Axiom, also Choicepoint, which people may know from the 2000 election, the ones who purged the voter database in Florida of what they said were felons; and, of course, many of them, of the people who should have been voting, were not felons. Choicepoint and these other companies like — What is it, Seisint, Seismic Intelligence, Verint, Verifiable Intelligence?

ROBERT O’HARROW: Amazing stuff. I mean, these are public companies. You can go and look at their securities filings and read some of what they do. I did that intensively, and I went to these companies, and I looked at other records and lawsuits and all the stuff that I could get my hands on. And the portrait that emerges is that, in effect, what you have?And this is no exaggeration; it sounds a little goofy, but it’s true, and I’ll explain that in a minute. You have in effect the creation of private intelligence services that in many ways do what James Bond and his colleagues would have liked back in the 60’s movies except they do it faster and better in terms of finding links among people, establishing patterns, you know, showing tendencies, risk assessment. Choicepoint, based outside of Atlanta, has collected — has bought fifty-eight companies since 1997. They — the companies include a genetic repository, biometrics, fingerprint; they are becoming a fingerprint specialist. They’ve got something like 19 billion records, and they have become, they say, the nation’s largest background screener. So that when you try to get a job, there’s a chance that the company is going to Choicepoint to check your background out. And so, if you had a — you know, if you wrote a bad check or if you had a bust for smoking pot when you were in college, or drunk driving or, you know, whatever, that kind of background is going to probably follow you forever now, and is going to be instantly available to anybody who’s willing to pay the $50 or $100 to check you out. And one fellow who’s concerned about it called it that we’re moving toward a "scarlet letter" society where you — you are branded for life for whatever you did when you were 19 and foolish. But, more than that, Choicepoint is providing these intelligence services, and when I said I’d get back to it, it’s this: I concluded in my book that Choicepoint was operating as a private intelligence service. And I was very excited in a sense and kind of awed by the idea of it. I took that to the company before I went to press with the book, and I said, ’Here’s what I’ve concluded you are and that you’re becoming;’ and the company said, 'Well, yes, guess what? You're right." And, so, using that, as well as more reporting, I wrote a story for the front page of the Washington Post basically declaring them a private intelligence service, and, you know, we’ll see where that takes us. I think that’s — The idea of that, I’m hoping, will help people understand that we’re not just dealing with a direct mailing list here anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob O’Harrow, I was just at Heathrow airport last weekend and, as usual, I was pulled out of the line coming back to the United States. And the security woman —

ROBERT O’HARROW: Your obviously a threat.

AMY GOODMAN: The security woman said to me: 'We would like to dose your body with low-level radiation. Can we have your permission, please? And I said, ’What you are talking about? Is this a joke?' And she said, 'No. Can we have your permission? We'll do a low dose of radiation through your body.’ And I said, 'Hell, no.' I said, 'Would you do this?' And she said, 'No.' So I said, 'Well then, I would like to go back in the line.' She said, 'Well, now that you've refused we’re going to do a particular — almost a body cavity search or something. I said, 'Yeah, you can do anything, but I'm not going to get my body dosed with radiation. And she said, 'Okay, that is your choice.' I said, 'Will it be our choice in three months or five months? You're saying this is a test now, but — ’ Do you know about this, and can you talk more broadly about the airlines and these lists?

ROBERT O’HARROW: I don’t know anything about that, but I will tell you that I find it outrageous in the extreme. And I — Kind of an interesting thing about the book here is that a lot of people talk about privacy and such, and I’ve written a lot about that, but as I’ve focused on this more and more in the last several years, I realized that it’s not really about privacy; it’s about this thing that we have known about for a couple of hundred years in the United States, which is autonomy, this notion to be free from people meddling with us and messing with us. And, to me, that’s one of those things where if you say, 'no,' somehow you’re suspect; but, you know, my response to that is: Go to hell. To me, a lot of this?the data collection, the use of it in ways that no one bothered to tell us about, the targeting us even for marketing or including us in the special deals or discounts, or whatever, and then especially the government using it in ways that we don’t understand?is really about autonomy and it reminds me of when I was a little kid in Indiana hearing my relatives say, "Who gave them the right?" and it could have been about any issue, but, to me, it’s: Who gave them the right to do this? Why isn’t — why aren’t people telling us what’s really happening here in terms of the data collection and the scrutiny of us as individuals and letting us engage in a real, honest debate about the parts that we really want to make us safer and the parts where there needs to be limit on these kinds of intrusions?

AMY GOODMAN: What about R.F.I.D.’s, radio frequency identification chips?

ROBERT O’HARROW: R.F.I.D. is a classic example that holds for a lot of this technology. It has a real use. Just like the information that we’ve been talking about has a real use and we like a lot of it. We like the discounts. We like the conveniences. And, in fact, I would argue that we have to use information technology to make us safer to some degree. R.F.I.D. is like that. It can be used to tag pallets of goods that are going from California to New York, and what it allows the logistical managers to do is to wave a wand over the R.F.I.D. chip, and the chip will have an i.d. code on it that bounces right back?it reflects the radio frequency?and the i.d. chip would tell you where the pallet of goods came from, where it’s supposed to go, what’s there, what’s in it, because the i.d. that’s on that chip is also in a computer that has all this information. The thing that’s interesting is that, for all that utility, R.F.I.D. is going to be used more and more on people and on i.d.'s. And what it's going to do is accelerate the collection of information about people. So, once R.F.I.D. becomes more common, there’s going to be readers presumably in doorways at airports; so, when you go through with your i.d., it’ll automatically record that Bob O’Harrow was there at a certain time. These readers presumably and almost surely will be placed into doorways where we’re not told they’re there. Initially, we will be, but eventually there will be some — become so common that we’re just going to get used to them, and we’ll forget to ask: Are there R.F.I.D. readers here? So that as we go about our live, it won’t be just cameras which exist in far greater numbers than ever before, or the data, which exist in far greater numbers than ever before when we swipe our cards, use our credit card and so on. It will be these R.F.I.D. readers that automatically record as we move about in the world. Now, again, there’s security there, because there’s a certain level of security because they’re going to know whose coming and going; but the question is: How are we going to limit the use of the information that’s collected, and how are we going to insure that the government and these private companies aren’t being intrusive and undermining the sense of autonomy that I would argue we must have in a free society so that we can be politically active, so we can be creative, so we can be different if we choose to be, without being made to feel odd or peculiar.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob O’Harrow, can you talk more about biometrics like iris scans and fingerprinting?

ROBERT O’HARROW: Sure. The same — same thing. An R.F.I.D. chip is something that you carry with you or in some cases people are having, believe it or not, embedded in their bodies. Biometrics is something that you don’t even have a choice.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, wait, wait. Embedded in their bodies?

ROBERT O’HARROW: Yeah. There are R.F.I. — People will recognize that their dogs have these R.F.I.D. chips in them in case the dogs go missing. And in some places it’s a requirement. You have to have this thing, and it’s injected in, and it’s a chip that’s embedded under the skin. Well, there’s a company that has started doing this now for a number of different reasons. And it’s kind of funny, they argue that it’s to contain medical information and they argue that it — if you put it in your children, if they go missing, that it will help you find them more quickly. But the reality is — and I know this because I’ve reported on it, is that it’s moving toward a general identity system where, if you have that on your — embedded in your skin or on an i.d. card, you’re going to be able to get through the line, whether it’s at work or the airport and such eventually more quickly than the people who choose not to do it, just as you chose not to have this radiation infusion, whatever that was. That cost you time. It made things inconvenient, because you’d opted not to do it. In the same way, if you choose not to have the R.F.I.D. on a card or embedded in your skin, you’re not going to get through the fast line. Now, biometrics. It’s the same sort of thing. I would argue in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to share our fingerprints on i.d. cards and electronically to get into facilities, to go through the airport, to get into buildings. And that’s just a fact of life. It’s — a biometric is an immutable characteristics, like a fingerprint, your face, your voice. These are things that, for the most part, people can’t mimic. And it’s an identity system. And the question isn’t the use of the biometric, because the reality is biometrics could actually help prevent identity theft because it’s hard to imitate someone’s face to take on that identity. But once you have an identity system like that, that — where a biometric is used universally whether it’s your fingerprint or face print, once again it, makes — it creates enormous opportunities for private companies to track you, or to watch you for — you know, mercantile purposes in ways that weren’t possible before. My argument is: How can we adopt the one which could help us without having rules to limit the use of the other, which is the tracking part of it? Why do I say that? It’s a very simple, very old-fashioned idea. In a free society, we want people to be as non-conformist as possible. We want people to sort of feel free to express political opinions that are unpopular. We want them to be artistic. We want them to, you know, just be themselves. When you have a sense of being watched, a watched society where biometrics are used to watch everywhere you go, where your data is picked up, at some point we begin to realize in a way that we haven’t to date how much we’re being watched, and there’ll be the people who don’t care, and they’ll do whatever; but the reality is that the rest of us are going to feel this chill that maybe if we misstep, we could be taken away for questioning, that — you know, it might be recorded that we did something foolish. And so, to avoid embarrassment or those kinds of questions, or the sense that we’re somehow suspect, we’re going to all become a lot more conformist, which I think — I know it seems amorphous, but I find that a tragic idea.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert O’Harrow, tell us very briefly (we only have a few more minutes, there’s so much to talk about) but, who Hank Asher is.

ROBERT O’HARROW: Well, thank you for asking about Hank. I spent a fair amount of time with him, and he’s an amazing character. Just in purely in terms of readability (to kind of plug the book here for a second) we ended up talking about computers and data and government power and all of that, but at root here is you have these amazing characters, and their stories that help understand this data revolution that we’re going through. Hank Asher was a data pioneer. And he invented two systems now that have helped change the landscape of law enforcement surveillance, and the delivery of information about Americans. He created the system called D.B.T. that was sold to Choicepoint that was used in the Florida election. And he started out with almost nothing in the early 1990’s, and created a system that collected — when he sold his system and became wealthy in the late 1990’s, it had 8 billion records. Well, now, D.B.T. is part of Choicepoint, which of course, has something like 19 billion or 20 billion records.

He also, after 9/11, had a company called Seismic Intelligence. Its name was Seisint, and it created a system called the matrix. A lot of people would have heard about the matrix, because it, for the first time to my knowledge, combined criminal investigative records and confidential investigative records from police and law enforcement and driver records and photographs with these 20 billion records that, you know, showed where we lived and the cars we owned and the assets that we have; and it did it in a way where I could make a query, if I were a cop, that had a partial license plate, a description of, you know, that I’m a white guy with — six foot with brown hair, and a general location, and come up with everybody that fit that description within the snap of a finger. It was an amazing, amazing system. Now, Hank Asher is an especially interesting character, because in interviews with me, he acknowledged that in the early 1980’s for a short time, he was a drug smuggler, and flew to and from South America and Central America with drugs. He didn’t specify, but I obtained records under Freedom of Information that showed that the drugs, according to police, appeared to be cocaine and lots of pot. Hank Asher said that that was a short period of his life, he was an adventurer, and that he hadn’t done it since, and there’s nothing to indicate that he has. What’s interesting is that after he built the matrix system, spending at least $10 million and perhaps as much as $20 million of his own money, he was invited to the White House and escorted there by the President’s brother, Jeb Bush, to demonstrate this system, which, in fact, from what I can tell, is a mind-blowing technology for Vice President Cheney, for soon to be Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge, and for others in the White House in the Roosevelt room. And after that he received funding from Homeland Security to help expand the use of this. Now, the matrix system is one of those things that a lot of people thinks was killed because a number of states dropped out both for concerns about privacy and the intrusion, as well as the cost. But the reality is, some states are still using it, and more importantly, last summer, Hank Asher’s company was bought by Lexus Nexus, this giant company that nobody thinks of really in this realm because we all use them to get newspaper clips; but in fact, Lexus Nexus is one of the main players in the war on terror, and is sharing its information under contract with the government. Now, they bought the matrix system and Hank Asher’s company, Seisint for three-quarters of a billion dollars. And it’s a sure thing that the matrix technology is now being used for homeland security. And I would argue (I’m betting. I don’t know this for sure.) that it’s going to be interwoven into the much larger, vastly larger company, Lexus-Nexus which has a — you know, a global scope because it’s based out of the U.K. And so, it just becomes this incredible fascinating story that sounds like science fiction or Hollywood, but, in fact, is truer than most people probably want to recognize.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert O’Harrow, we’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you very much for being with us and for writing this book. Doesn’t make you feel very comfortable, but it’s important information. No Place to Hide.

ROBERT O’HARROW: Well, if we — Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Okay. Thank you. Robert O’Harrow, Jr. No Place to Hide.

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