The Application of Knowledge Discovery Processes and Data Mining Approaches in the Us

The use of‘knowledge discovery processes’ embracing ‘data mining’ approaches in the US have manifested in at least three different ways: governmental administrative agency knowledge discovery processes, law enforcement knowledge discovery processes and national security knowledge discovery processes.59 Each of these knowledge discovery processes exist to assist different governmental agencies identify different types of individuals engaged in an array of behaviour depending on the aim of the profiler. The first two manifestations of knowledge discovery processes primarily exist outside of the context of terrorism and are aimed at identifying individuals engaged in criminal activity. For example, in governmental administrative agency knowledge discovery processes, the US Internal Revenue Service utilise knowledge discovery processes to identify individuals underpaying or avoiding their tax obligations.60 Additionally the use of knowledge discovery processes within law enforcement has been used by the FBI as a basis to investigate serious crime across America.61 However, in the context of terrorism there has been an array of different knowledge discovery processes which has emerged as a direct consequence of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Following the September 11 attacks the media,62 academic commentary63 and governmental reports64 all emphasised that law enforcement and security agencies held adequate information to identify the terrorists who committed the September 11 attacks prior to the commission of the attack but their systems fundamentally failed to ‘connect the dots in advance of the terrorist attacks.’65 This raised a significant concern that law enforcement officers and agencies did not have an effective framework to identify patterns in information which could alert law enforcement officers of the likelihood of a terrorist attack. Furthermore, the apparent inability of US law enforcement agencies to proactively manage the threat of terrorism resulted in a profound re-evaluation of the role that law enforcement agencies played in managing the threat of terrorism.66 Many agencies, such as the FBI and the CIA, shifted focus from prosecuting acts of terrorism and preparatory activities to proactively managing the threat of terrorism by seeking to prevent its occurrence through the development of schemes and frameworks which would assist in identifying likely terrorists.67 For example, the New York Times reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) were engaged in ‘wiretapping telephone and email communications of people in the country in an effort to track individuals affiliated with Al-Qaeda’ so as to pre-emptively track likely terrorists.68 Additionally, in the following year USA Today reported that ‘the NSA was actively collecting, with the cooperation of major telephone companies, the call records of millions of US citizens and residents in an effort to detect pattern of terrorist behaviour.’69

In the aftermath of September 11 three main knowledge discovery processes were developed specifically to assist in managing the threat terrorism. These included knowledge discovery processes to assist in identifying financial transactions likely to be associated with terrorism or preparatory activities, knowledge discovery processes to assist in identifying individuals worthy of further investigation at ports, and general knowledge discovery processes to assist in identifying individuals likely to be engaged in terrorism or preparatory activities. It is important to note that law enforcement officers have employed various knowledge discovery processes at ports before the September 11 attacks, however, it was the September 11 attacks that provided the impetus to further develop and refine the knowledge discovery processes used at US ports.

Although it is possible to categorise these knowledge discovery processes by their area of focus, the ‘Homeland Security Act 2002’ (HSA) provided a broad framework which encouraged and facilitated the development of knowledge discovery processes to assist in the identification of likely terrorists where section 201(d)(14) provides the ‘Undersecretary for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection’ in ‘the Department of Homeland Security’ with the specific power to

... establish and utilise a secure communications and information technology infrastructure, including data mining and other advanced tools, in order to access, receive and analyse data and information in furtherance of the responsibilities of this section....70

Therefore, the terrorist attack on September 11 became the catalyst which resulted in a race to develop new and existing knowledge discovery frameworks and processes capable of identifying patterns and trends in human activity which could indicate terrorism acts or preparatory activities.

Each knowledge discovery process manifestation will be identified and explained individually so as to understand the different ways formal terrorist profiling methods can be applied to identify individuals engaged in terrorism or preparatory activities.

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