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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan State Police over its participation in a multistate crime and terrorism database, alleging the agency is illegally sharing criminal data as well as personal information about individuals. In the lawsuit filed last week, the ACLU called for the state police to pull out of the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, also known as “Matrix.” Milliken v. Sturdivant, No. 04-423728CZ (Wayne Co., Mich., Cir. Ct.). According to the complaint filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, Matrix contains 20 billion records in a “data warehouse” on potential criminal suspects, and “can deliver dossiers online in an instant, including addresses, jobs, assets, voter registration and associates.” “The most troubling aspect of Matrix is the fact that vast amounts of information are being compiled on law-abiding citizens. The program has a big-brother feel to it, and as we’ve seen in the past, investigating law-abiding citizens can lead to abuse,” said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan. The Michigan Attorney General’s office, which is representing the state police, declined to comment. According to Steinberg, 11 states, including California, Texas and New York, have dropped out of Matrix, most for financial reasons, some for privacy concerns. Currently, five states remain in the program: Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut Pennsylvania and Florida. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement oversees Matrix, which is owned by Seisint Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. Seisint declined to comment. According to court documents, Matrix, launched in late 2001, was designed to link government and community databases to help police conduct detailed searches on particular individuals, and look for patterns in the data that can identify possible terrorists. One of the system’s features is a “social network visualization,” where a diagram can link a person to every person they know or have contact with. The ACLU claims that Michigan’s participation in Matrix violates a 1980 law that prohibits a police agency from sharing certain confidential information without legislative approval, or an OK from a citizens oversight body. Neither scenario exists in Michigan. The Michigan Legislature passed the 1980 law, known as the Interstate Law Enforcement Intelligence Organizations Act, after learning that police in the 1960s and 1970s had spied and compiled “red squad files” on hundreds of citizens who were involved in civil rights and anti-war movements, but had committed no crime. In May 2004, the ACLU sent a letter to the Michigan State Police questioning its authority to participate in Matrix.

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