"The Matrix": Database Raises Rights Fears

While privacy concerns are frustrating the Pentagon's plans for a far-reaching database to combat terrorism, a similar project is quietly taking shape with the participation of more than a dozen states and $12 million in federal funds.

The database project, created so states and local authorities could track would-be terrorists as well as fugitives, is being built and housed in the offices of a private company but will be open to some federal law enforcers and perhaps even U.S. intelligence agencies.

Dubbed Matrix, the database has been in use for a year and a half in Florida, where police praise the crime-fighting tool as nimble and exhaustive. It cross-references the state's driving records and restricted police files with billions of pieces of public and private data, including credit and property records.

But privacy advocates, officials in two states and a competing data vendor have branded Matrix as playing fast and loose with Americans' private details.

The database is also maintained by a private company and maintained on its premises, which raises even more concerns, as the AP reports here via The Washington Times.