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FBI Data Mining Students' Financial Aid Records 254

crumley writes "The U.S. Department of Education has been running a program that data mines student financial aid records for the FBI. The program, now five years old, is known as Project Strike Back. It trolls for names of suspected terrorists through the Education Department's database of information, which is derived from students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The discovery of this program by Northwestern University journalism student Laura McGann has added fuel to the debate about the Education Department's proposal to start a new database tracking the academic progress of all students."
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FBI Data Mining Students' Financial Aid Records

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  • by IntelliAdmin ( 941633 ) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:44PM (#16025318) Homepage
    Not that I think this program is good, but they only collected 1000 records for analysis. According to the article there are over 14 *million* student loans each year. I would say that this is a very small fraction of the student population.

    Windows Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]
    • by Chosen Reject ( 842143 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:51PM (#16025380)
      I just hope that while they are at it they can go ahead and renew my FAFSA for this year.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by drpimp ( 900837 )
        I just hope mine gets deleted, along with any paper trails to the banks that lent me the money. I think I would actually let the government use my records in a trade for paying them off. Sounds good to me. :-P
    • by RumGunner ( 457733 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:55PM (#16025410) Homepage
      1000 would be a good number to try as a test batch before rolling out a much larger program.
      • by Ruff_ilb ( 769396 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:16PM (#16025596) Homepage
        On the contrary, this could be BAD.

        If they're using the records of a MILLION people, they could be doing some sort of statistical analysis. As is, it's rather clear that they're actually looking at each individual person in detail.
        • by rodgster ( 671476 ) *
          Look, were any of the 911 hijackers on any way shape or form of assistance, subsidy, federal loans, etc.

          No. Noth that I'm aware of.

          All had plenty of Bin Laden Bucks. IIRC the excess was transferred back before the attack.

          Clue to dumbass who thought of this idea;

          Federal Financial Aid is barely enough to finance your education (at least back when I was in college).

          This is nothing more than an invasive Big Brother abuse of power.

      • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:27PM (#16025684) Homepage Journal
        From the article:
        Mr. Miller said the Education Department had been asked to "run names of subjects already material to counterterrorism investigations" to look for evidence of student loan fraud or identity theft.

        "No records of people other than those already under investigation were called for," he said. "This was not a sweeping program, in that it involved only a few hundred names. This is part of our mission, which is to take the leads we have and investigate them."


        This wasn't trolling through student data at random, it was for specific names that were already part of an FBI investigation. That point is being entirely missed in the comments here. The FBI has a list of people they're investigating, and are asking the DoE to check if any of them are applying for financial aid anywhere. That sounds like basic police work to me. Perhaps it's newsworthy because it's surprising that two branches of the federal government can coordinate on anything.
        • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:41PM (#16025820)
          According to the article, law enforcement has open access to this information at any time without giving valid reasons. If these people are under suspicion for valid reasons, why isn't it possible for our government to obtain search warrants to look at the data?
          • by TopShelf ( 92521 )
            Because a search warrant involves getting permission from a judge, which adds another layer of bureaucracy for no apparent protection. Searching your house is quite different from asking the DoE if you've applied for a student loan.

            Ms. Mitchelson said the information sharing was possible under a law that permits a federal agency to release personal information to another agency "for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity."


            • They're only different by degree. How much money I've borrowed and from whom is still personal information, and if the government is going to access it without probably cause, that's still a pretty serious violation of my privacy, as far as I'm concerned. Where do you draw the line?
              • by Miaowara_Tomokato ( 757775 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @04:40PM (#16026724)
                Why would you expect information about any loans stemming from your "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" to be kept secret from the government? If it concerns you that much, apply for only private loans - then they can only track you using your bank data and any secret programs you don't know about.
                • Yes, but I don't see why an application for student loans should be subject to search by the FBI. I really don't see why there's such a special connection between the FSAF (if I got that acronym right) and the FBI that they can't go through the normal channels and get a subpoena for the records if they think that there's probable cause.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by DM9290 ( 797337 )
              "Because a search warrant involves getting permission from a judge, which adds another layer of bureaucracy for no apparent protection."

              really? Judges are not mere rubber stamps. In actual fact they actually JUDGE the information to determine if on the balance of probabilities a search is justified. They also obtain an OATH from a witness of some kind (albeit often a cop) as to what exactly they claim to believe. This can be held against the individual in the future with the possibile consequence of a pe
          • According to the article, law enforcement has open access to this information at any time without giving valid reasons. If these people are under suspicion for valid reasons, why isn't it possible for our government to obtain search warrants to look at the data?

            Well, why would they. You point out that they have open access to this at any time. Then you ask why they wouldn't get a warrant.

            Once you write the laws so that you can see any information about anyone without a warrant, why would you then bother w

          • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @03:35PM (#16026244) Homepage
            Why should they have to aquire a search warrant to access information that already belongs to them? The FAFSA is submitted to the Department of Education. They are part of the Federal Government. I'm sure they already search through this data in an effort to prevent fraud. Why no search through it to find criminals and known terrorists as well?

            If you want to get all pissy about something, get mad at all the Financial Aid offices all over the nation at various colleges and universities who take FAFSA data and use it to come up with Audit plans. They say they are randomly auditing students but really they only audit the poor kids. This is because they are eligable for the most aid. Every year I went to college I was "randomly audited" by my financial aid office based on information I submitted in my FAFSA. This audit put the burden of proof on my to prove that my information was correct. The financial aid office could not be bothered to actually check any of the facts I had submitted. Every year I had to prove to them just how poor I really was. One year, they did not audit me and also did not give me any aid. When I inquired as to why they said that they "extrapolated" that I must have over $100,000 in savings based on the amount of interest I claimed on my tax returns the year before. What they failed to realize is that the interest was accumulated since I was born in the form of savings bonds and I claimed it all in one year when I cashed them in. The information I submitted on my FAFSA said I was poor but they choose not to beleive me and also choose not to notify me that they were not offering me any aid because of their "analysis" of my situation. I had to go dig through my records and give those bastards copies of my savings bond receipts for them to believe that I really didn't have $100k stashed away somewhere. Then finally they gave me my aid. If you want to be pissed off at someone. Be pissed off at the Financial Aid offices at your local University. Those Bastards!
            • Using the information for a purpose other than that presented to the provider on the Privacy Act statement should require a warrant.
              • Great! Then they should change the privacy statement so that it says basically that any information submitted to the federal government on a FAFSA is their property and that they can search it for any purposes including to find fraud and to find known criminals/terrorists. The information should not be sold to credit agencies or third party corporations.
          • no warrant is necessary because first and foremost, this is FAFSA.

            That means Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

            By filling out this application, you are giving the government permission to essentially pour over every detail you put in the application, to verify if it is true or not. That means everything. Anything suspicious or false means you could have the FBI knocking on your door, just based on the bad info.

            FAFSA is not sent to some private organization. You are asking the government to put yo
          • by Antony-Kyre ( 807195 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @06:50PM (#16027473)
            This is tricky. Does the government constitutionally need a warrant to search it's own property (financial aid info)?
        • by demigod ( 20497 )
          This wasn't trolling through student data at random, it was for specific names that were already part of an FBI investigation. That point is being entirely missed in the comments here. The FBI has a list of people they're investigating, and are asking the DoE to check if any of them are applying for financial aid anywhere. That sounds like basic police work to me. Perhaps it's newsworthy because it's surprising that two branches of the federal government can coordinate on anything.

          Yes, standard police wo

          • by TopShelf ( 92521 )
            You sound like Al Capone's lawyer!
          • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Friday September 01, 2006 @03:29PM (#16026194) Homepage Journal
            This isn't true. A better analogy would be if a car was wanted on suspicion of being involved in a hit-and-run, and the police went down to the DMV and asked where said car was registered.

            It's beginning with a particular piece of information (either the terrorism suspect's name, or the suspected vehicle's tag number) and then searching through records to find out where that person or vehicle may be, so that it can be investigated further.

            The police don't need a warrant to do that any more than they need a warrant to check to see if your car is stolen when you get pulled over.

            Where it would have become improper, was if the police had said, "give us the names and addresses of anyone from country x, y, and z who has applied for financial aid to college," or instead of giving the Dept. of Education a list of particular names to search for, they had simply requested a dump of the entire database (or access to the database) to comb through at their leisure. Either of those things would be overly invasive and wrong. But to say that the police shouldn't have the ability to search through government records during the course of an investigation is ridiculous.

            Many long-term investigations are broken only because a suspect will unintentionally break cover in some subtle way; it makes sense to have individuals who are on watch lists (terrorism/foreign-nationals-of-interest lists, FBI Wanted lists, outstanding warrants lists) to be filtered through existing databases on a periodic basis to see if they turn up. Frankly I'm surprised they don't just have some sort of batch program set up to do this; rather than making it a one-shot, they ought to re-run the names continously and then notify law enforcement if there's a 'hit.' Doing so wouldn't compromise the privacy of persons not on the lists, and wouldn't require that anyone else's information be turned over to law enforcement -- so unless they were interested in you already, submitting your FAFSA wouldn't put you at risk.
            • by demigod ( 20497 )
              Doing so wouldn't compromise the privacy of persons not on the lists, and wouldn't require that anyone else's information be turned over to law enforcement -- so unless they were interested in you already, submitting your FAFSA wouldn't put you at risk.


              Unless of course you just happen to have the same name as someone on the list. But what are the chances of that happening? :-)

        • From the article:

          Under the program, called Project Strikeback, the Education Department received names from the F.B.I. and checked them against its student aid database, forwarding information. Each year, the Education Department collects information from 14 million applications for federal student aid.

          Not much more complicated than when cops run a suspect's financial records or call records. They're simply looking for more information about suspects/known criminals. Hardly newsworthy ala the NSA or AO

        • by foqn1bo ( 519064 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @04:59PM (#16026864)
          The fact that the names were part of an ongoing investigation is utterly meaningless because the FBI will not tell us who they were investigating or what they were being investigated for. What you are saying, ultimately, is that you trust the FBI to do what is right regardless of your ability to discern what they are actually doing. The lack of transparency in these kind of programs is what is truly alarming, not the fact that they exist at all. Granting legitimacy to a formerly secret data sharing program effectively grants legitimacy to any program like it. And since the burden of discretion is left up to a narrow channel of the federal government without any public, judicial, or legislative oversight, you will not have an opportunity to complain about it when a related (and likely escalated) program goes into effect, because you will never hear about it unless a ballsy investigative journalist picks up on clues, harasses the government for details, or gets a call from an inside whistleblower. Furthermore, it would be naiive to assume the FBI were only interested in investigating terror suspects -- the federal government has a rich history of infiltrating and conducting surveilance on student dissidents and campus organization. Just last year the Pentagon put the UCSC activist group "Students Against War" on a Credible Threat [nytimes.com] list...for protesting military recruiters at a campus job fair.
    • by Zinnian ( 958511 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:07PM (#16025510)
      Sure 1000 is nothing, nothing that is until one of those happens to be you or me. It's that small first step that makes them think they can take a bit of a bigger one next time. All of this is done, of course, in the name of tracking the terrorists and keeping us safe.
      • You aren't saying anything. You are just claiming 'slippery slope' without telling why. Yesterday my mom didn't eat any meat. She isn't a vegetarian, but that's just the way it happened yesterday. This means that now with this small step she will slowly stop eating any meat at all. After this, since she will be slipping down a slope, she will stop eating any animal products at all; she will be a vegan! Oh wait no, we're having steak tonight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by letxa2000 ( 215841 )
      This should just be common sense. Branches of government (or departments therein) should share information, and they should do so efficiently.

      • by Elemenope ( 905108 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:55PM (#16025944)

        This may sound counterintitive, but I disagree strongly. I want the FBI to be partially on a different page as the Military, as the local police. Sure, it slightly increases the chance that a catastrophic attack might succeed, but there are much more important variables than this in that equation. No, the drag of having massively powerful agencies collaborating is that it makes their view all the more awesomely omniscient. Where then does privacy live?

        Look, if you were able to coordinate all extraneous public bits of data that a person ejects into the environment through paperwork, shopping, loan apps, etc, it would, after a certain degree of sophistication and interdepartmental coopoeration, become nearly trivially easy to identify, say, AIDS patients, or gay people, or people who cheat on their spouse with a very high degree of confidence. At that point, all the on-paper privacy in the world doesn't mean squat. With increased automation and advances in data mining heuristics, the cost of correlating data per person keeps going down. Sure, it may be too expensive to do categorical surveillance on a wide scale now, but just wait twenty years.

        The government isn't a collection of scientists at a symposium, and not all information *wants* to be free (or whatever the kids' rhetoric is these days). The government has direct power, to coerce, to control, to detain, and yes, even to kill, and do all of these facelessly and on a wide scale. That awesome power is checked somewhat significantly on paper, but the more important practical check on the use of that power usually is pragmatism brought on by bureacratic inefficiency. This isn't about sharing information in the abstract. This is about sharing personal data, the analysis of which may well control the fate of someone's life or freedom.

  • by patrixmyth ( 167599 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:46PM (#16025340)
    If this means I no longer have to submit my 12 transcripts for every educational and career application, then I'm all for it. Then again, if I were named Ahmed Bin Laden, then I might feel differently about it. (Oh, and I for one, welcome our Dept. of Education Overlords!)
    • Unlikely. Every time you apply for any kind of an educational program, you have to submit everything, even if it's to the same school, the same department, hell, even the same person.

    • by megaditto ( 982598 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:04PM (#16025488)
      Then again, if I were named Ahmed Bin Laden, then I might feel differently about it.
      No you would not; the bin Ladens (of Osama bin Laden) are one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia. The 9/11 hijackers paid cash for their flight schools.

      The absolute majority of foreign students are not eligible for FAFSA, and hence do not even file the applications. Monitoring FAFSA hence targets the long neglected domestic trailor-trash/ghetto terror threat.

      Of course applying for FAFSA should not automatically give the Govt a probable cause since George W Bush clearly stated being poor does not make one a criminal by itself:
      First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren't necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn't mean you're willing to kill.
      • by rovingeyes ( 575063 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:33PM (#16025737)

        The absolute majority of foreign students are not eligible for FAFSA

        That is the most important point, which most people including professors themselves don't know. I don't think there is any federal financial aid for foreign except for very very minute segment. So if the FBI is investigating or analyzing these records you have to wonder who they are "striking back" against? US citizens? FBI sure does have heads up their asses.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Doctor Memory ( 6336 )
          who they are "striking back" against? US citizens? FBI sure does have heads up their asses.
          FBI's charter is strictly domestic surveillance (and other investigative work). International investigations are the purview of the CIA. The NSA, apparently, can disappear anybody...
  • It should not be tracking us.

    This is unacceptable. The lack of self-control exhibited by this administration and its departments over the last six years is unbelievable. If enough of this junk happens, it is actually going to cause social instability. What a clusterf* modern government has become.
    • by popeye44 ( 929152 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:29PM (#16025703)
      yea.. nothing like the last administration confiscating FBI files on pretty much anyone they didn't agree with. I'm sorry but it's the GOVT period that needs to be stopped.. not this administration or the last or the next. It's OUR Fuckin goverment and its' past time they learned who exactly it does belong to.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by megaditto ( 982598 )
      So you do not like the program that is supposed to protect you from terrorists. Would rather have Clinton and Saddam back in power?

      Why do you hate America so much?
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        So you do not like the program that is supposed to protect you from terrorists.

        Since, as a rule, foreigners are not eligible for this program, the only ones who would be investigated are American citizens. Unless you're saying that the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs were being tracked.

        Would rather have Clinton and Saddam back in power?

        Let's see. Under Clinton we had a growing economy, an increase in real wages (even accounting for inflation), a reduction in the national debt, modest fisca

    • The constitution limits the authority of government. It does not make exceptions for wars, which is intentional. A ruling administration should simply not be allowed to do many of the things this one has done under any circumstances. Self control should have absolutely nothing to do with it.
    • ...then they DAMN WELL BETTER keep track of where they disperse it. I for one certainly do NOT want my money finding its way into grants, loans, etc going to students, charities, business or any other entitiy that is involved in the committing of acts of violence against our allies, with the ultimate stated goal of destroying our way of life. Furthermore, there is something rather sick about giving money, education, etc. to someone so they can use it all to kill you or destroy your society.

      My problem isn'
    • The databases with citizen information in the government's possession are proportional to the number, size and scope of our government's agencies.

      Frankly, it serves us right to have the government mining all this information about us; we let them accumulate it in the first place. When failures happen in the institutions we expect to be protecting our health and safety, we demand better interagency communication. Well, here it is.

      Each new aspect of our lives that we grant entitlement status to -- which we th
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:54PM (#16025405) Homepage Journal
    All these surveillence programs would be acceptable if we could trust the government not to abuse them. Not to expose our personal info to ID fraud (and worse). Not to hand the data to their corporate cronies. Not to spy on political enemies for counterstrategy or blackmail. Regardless of which party, faction or person is in power, publicly or covertly.

    Not just "trust" as in "the president seems like a decent person", but Reagan's promise to "trust but verify". Real Congressional oversight. Real punishment for violators. Real institutional processes for keeping data within the scope of only the required transaction. Real trustworthy government processes that make "security" both use and protect data.
    • All these surveillence programs would be acceptable if we could trust the government not to abuse them

      Legit Question for Parent: If the Republican party loses the house, senate, and presidency, then will you be able to "trust the government"? Or is there something else that would also need to occur? Or do you believe you can ever trust the government? Thank you.
      • Yes, it's possible to trust the government, when (as I posted) they implement

        Real Congressional oversight. Real punishment for violators. Real institutional processes for keeping data within the scope of only the required transaction. Real trustworthy government processes that make "security" both use and protect data.

        Which the government mostly did, when Congress was Democratic. And which a Democratic Congress would need to protect the democratic process from being subverted from the outside by Republicans

        • Real Congressional oversight. Real punishment for violators. Real institutional processes for keeping data within the scope of only the required transaction. Real trustworthy government processes that make "security" both use and protect data.

          Which the government mostly did, when Congress was Democratic.


          I'm not sure I could trust a Democratic congress either though?
          Cynthia McKinney [wtvm.com] didn't believe she should be punished for scuffling with a police officer.
          William J. Jefferson [cqpolitics.com] didn't get punished for
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
            So much for your "Legit Question" for me. You misspelled "Loaded Question".

            Cynthia McKinney was voted down in her Democratic primary after she abused her power (to nearly negligible effect) in public view. Democrats voted her out.
            William Jefferson was caught on evidence, deserted by the Party, removed from power, and will probably go to jail.
            Patrick Kennedy's drunken crash showed zero evidence of any corruption in his government responsibilities, nor did his unacceptable (though universally accepted) wrist-
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "All these surveillence programs would be acceptable if we could trust the government not to abuse them."

      That's the key, along with the fact that no government, in the history of humanity, has shown itself worthy of such trust.

      If someone wants to be trusted with such insane amounts of power, it's not enough for us to check up on him every so often to see if he's abusing it. Power that's only subject to spot checks by loyal lapdogs (Congressmen) is not limited at all.

      Someone who is truly worthy of such trus
    • by garcia ( 6573 )
      It's not like this should suprise *anyone*. It's the Feds, they have your information that you freely sold to them for low interest rates, and they have the capability to do what they want w/it.

      If you don't want to have the Feds know anything about you while you attend college, my suggestions are:

      1. Don't apply for *any* financial aid or work study positions. Don't even look at the Financial Aid Office.

      2. Don't include your SSN on your application or any other documentation ever submitted to the college
      • I don't know whether we should be surprised, but we shouldn't be complacent.

        A better policy would force all those items you listed to scope their data to solely those transactions. With the surveillance process exposing them to only the active transaction, without retention or distribution beyond it. IOW, DNR should be the default, with only temporary security exceptions.

        BTW (OT), I thought you might be interested to hear that David Bromberg pulled off a killer "Dark Hollow" and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh..."
    • The Government has no right to search or seize anything without a warrant.

      There are no gray areas here. Search & seizure is not legal without a warrant. Period. No warrant without probable cause. Period. Dot. Stop.

      I refuse to accept a police/surveillance state as a "cure" for terrorism.

      What, is your argument that you'd rather give up your freedoms to be safe?
      • You're right. Probable cause is required to search a subset of the records. But even then, like when the cops search a bus for a runaway theif, they must be limited to searching people's "effects" solely at that moment, within scope of the warrant and that search transaction. They cannot video the contents of your wallet and pockets to review later.

        Once we've given up the 4th Amendment protection of our privacy rights, we're not only "less safe". We're damaged beyond recognition.

        I totally agree with you. An
    • by daigu ( 111684 )

      All these surveillence programs are not acceptable. Let's use the metaphor of classified information. Assume that we were to treat personal information as classified. You could argue that specific people in government should have the clearance to view this classified information. You could argue that they should be able to view it under strict conditions - just as you must handle classified information and as you suggest in your post.

      The question I have is what is the criteria for the need to know? How d

      • The criteria are already established in detail in the 4th Amendment's due process and warrants on probable cause, as brought up [slashdot.org] by another poster in this thread. With whom I agree 100% [slashdot.org].

        We need more privacy, not more, to be safe and free. Along with the legal checks and balances defined in the law after centuries of experience, like the FISA that Bush violated.

        Another broken regulating mechanism is exposure of these crimes by the press. The New York Times published the story of NSA spying breaking the FISA l
  • Marvelous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quaoar ( 614366 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:56PM (#16025418)
    After the security breach at the FSA [eschoolnews.com], and now this, I'm seriously beginning to regret going to college in this country...
    • by saskboy ( 600063 )
      "Quaoar (614366)"

      More importantly, how do you feel about being left off the new planets list? You could have gone to college on Pluto, they don't have data mining there.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kabrakan ( 13409 )
      Well if you get US money to go to school in Canada like me, you WILL be labelled a terrorist. Just listen for the click the next time you call your mom on the phone!!
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @01:59PM (#16025448)
    The discovery of this program by Northwestern University journalism student Laura McGann has added fuel to the debate about the Education Department's proposal to start a new database tracking the academic progress of all students."

    That's a great idea. It will make it a lot easier in the future to track down people who took subversive classes, classes from subversive professors, or classes with other subversives.

    Of course, that does make it a little tricky today for students to figure out who will be a subversive in twenty or thirty years. I know that back when I was in University (yes, it was during Vietnam) I would have bet that the people on the wrong side of a Senate subcommittee would have been the ones throwing Molotov cocktails. I would have been wrong, though. They're the ones conducting the Inquisition now.

    Well, nothing in life is certain.

  • I Don't Understand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lbmouse ( 473316 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:01PM (#16025460) Homepage
    They are mining data from the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid". Isn't this a federal agency/program? I do NOT approve of what they are doing in any fashion, but why is anyone surprised that a federal agency (FBI) is given access to federal documents (FAFSA)?
    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      Suprised in what sense? I, for one, am surprised.

      The FBI doesn't have carte blanche to request data from any federal agency whatsoever. There are limits to their power. They have to get warrants to request certain types of data.

      If they can ring up the Student Aid department and ask them to "Go ahead and send on over data X" then why couldn't they call up a state government agency, or a corporation, or even the IRS and request the same thing? Hopefully the Bureaucrats at the student aid place have enoug
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@macTOKYO.com minus city> on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:02PM (#16025474) Journal
    Who would have thought it?

    -jcr
  • by LoTechDave ( 999425 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:05PM (#16025497)
    I was under the impression that the FBI/CIA/Homeland Security wanted to track the flow of money back to terrorists. And they are looking at the financial records of students who aren't financially supported i.e the ones who have applied for a loan????
  • ...but how would Slashdot investigate terrorism? Isn't some law enforcement agency going to have to gather data and sift through it to determine who is using the system to disguise terrorist activities (and I don't just mean bomb making or kidnapping conspiracies either, funding is a large part of the issue)? If terrorists are known to be using the FAFSA process to launder funds to aid terrorist activities domestically or abroad, doesn't it make sense to further investigate these records?

    Like I said, I'm
    • ...but how would Slashdot investigate terrorism?


      - A requestor (government official, etc.) submits a request for a query on a specific database.
      - The group gathering this data must be completely unbiased, preferably a group of people outsourced from another country
      - This outside group is allowed to modify the requestors query as to remove any prejudice from it.
      - Each person submitting their data must first be given an opt out choice as to be exluded from the data mining.
      - Each record must be accumulated,
    • by wfberg ( 24378 )
      ...but how would Slashdot investigate terrorism? Isn't some law enforcement agency going to have to gather data and sift through it to determine who is using the system to disguise terrorist activities (and I don't just mean bomb making or kidnapping conspiracies either, funding is a large part of the issue)? If terrorists are known to be using the FAFSA process to launder funds to aid terrorist activities domestically or abroad, doesn't it make sense to further investigate these records?

      That's a big if. Th
      • If you just mention the word "terrorist", you get a budget, a project to work on, and possibly a promotion.

        So, from what I get, the summary of your post is : The reasoning behind government officials fighting terrorists is NOT America's safety and preservation, but instead it's so that they can stay in office, make more money, and get a promotion.
  • Absurd (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jerim ( 872022 )
    To me the concept is exactly the same as a cop chasing a criminal who has run into a department store. The officer runs in and starts looking at every face until he finds the criminal. Do we get upset at the officer and get up in his face about looking at us while he was trying to find the criminal?
    • The cop chasing someone into a department store has a reasonable suspicion that someone in the department store has committed a crime. In situtations where a crime is currently being committed or someone is in immediate danger, allowances are made to protect people from harm. It is likely that the FBI had a reason to look at these students specifically, however no one outside the bureau knows that reason. There was no judicial oversight.

      IANAL, but it would seem to me that since this information was tra

    • I agree with the parent.
  • It took me 6 years to get my BA. Part of it was laziness on may part, but if the government was searching through my records, maybe they would find that I could have graduated sooner if there were more sections of the goddamn classes I was trying to register for. Then again, that's what I get for going to a state school. Shoulda gone private and not had to rely on the government subsidy. Oh well. Can't be hypocritical there...

    As another poster pointed out, if you take money from the government, you sho
  • The program, now five years old, is known as Project Strike Back. It trolls for names of suspected terrorists through the Education Department's database of information, which is derived from students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

    Concerned but simple minded crowd: Why are you collecting previously confidential information ??!

    [Government official looks left and right, then pulls out a card that has the word Terrorist !! written on it in red (and in bold)]

    Concerned but s

    • by bbsguru ( 586178 )

      Since when is your name 'confidential information'? Public. The fact that you have asked for government assistance? Public.

      I guess it would also bother you if law enforcement looked through the phone book for people they're trying to catch up with, too.

      Let's see, we don't want to look only among people of a particular race or cultural group. That would be profiling. Mustn't use facial recognition software (too invasive)! Can't focus on a particular religious group (The O.B.Laden Temple of Burn, Baby

  • AIU, data mining is about finding 'interesting' stuff inside a data set. For instance, data mining would be the DoE going through their DB to see if the same name/SSN would crop up at multiple schools. Or an attempt to correlate school results (grades) with the amount of money spent on a student.
    Not the FBI submitting some names and asking 'do you have a record for mr. X'.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:16PM (#16025595) Homepage Journal
    how poor a lot of students really are and how hard paying for college can be....but then again, who am I kidding. If Americans could get a cheap education the number of people enlisting in the Army would plummet.
  • Data mining? Hardly. (Score:3, Informative)

    by trigeek ( 662294 ) on Friday September 01, 2006 @02:21PM (#16025642)
    They gave the FAFSA people a list of names, and FAFSA gave them info that was on their application. The poster needs to learn what data mining is.
  • I don't have a problem with the data mining of FAFSA stuff if it helps to fight the War on Terror.

    As an aside, if you believe this war is a sham, and you believe that there is no global terrorist threat, then pay closer attention the next time Iranian "president" (A-mad-jihad or whatever his name is) goes on television and advocates the annihilation of a country, namely Israel. And that's only one piece of the puzzle. There has been global terrorism since at least the 1970's, and it's all connected to the
    • As an aside, if you believe this war is a sham, and you believe that there is no global terrorist threat, then pay closer attention the next time Iranian "president" (A-mad-jihad or whatever his name is) goes on television and advocates the annihilation of a country, namely Israel.

      /.ers do not care, because they believe that if we leave them alone, they will leave us alone. Which of course is only a fantasy.
  • And we all know how well that is working!

    -Mike
  • Let's see. Suppose I search a database for a specific name, is that mining?

    If so, then the local cops are data mining DMV records every time they run a license plate.
  • by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Friday September 01, 2006 @03:25PM (#16026159) Journal
    Terrorists don't use their real names when they enter the country, just like they don't bring stuff to airports that they know we'll check for.

    All they're really searching for are people with arab names.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      since most people who commit the actual act are legit, there is no reason for them to use even a fake name.

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