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by CSO Contributor

FBI Issues Alert for 5 in Terror Investigation; Checking Terrorists’ Names a Tough Task; Baggage Handler Arrested in Paris; Yahoo Privacy Worries; 2000 Ballots Subject of New Debate

Dec 30, 20024 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

FBI Issues Alert for 5 in Terror Investigation

According to an article in todays New York Times, the FBI issued an alert to law enforcement agencies across the nation yesterday to help find five Middle Eastern men who are believed to have recently entered the country illegally. A public statement and the bulletin to law enforcement agencies said, “Although the FBI has no specific information that these individuals are connected to any potential terrorist activities, based upon information developed in the course of ongoing investigations, the FBI would like to locate and question these persons.” The five men identified as having entered the United States some time around Dec. 24 are: Abid Noraiz Ali, 24; Iftikhar Khozmai Ali, 21; Mustafa Khan Owasi, 33; Adil Pervez, 19; and Akbar Jamal, 28. The FBI posted photographs of the men on its website,, and warned that the names and birth dates may be false.Checking Terrorists Names a Tough TaskNew York Times describes the difficulties of keeping and searching name lists. Many organizations, such as airlines, are required by law to check peoples names against a list of suspected terrorists. But on lists with thousands or millions of entries, names of any ethnic origin can get lost when they are recorded with one spelling and searched for with another. For example, there are more than 200 ways to spell Mohammed and 60 ways to spell Qadaffi in the Latin alphabet. Variations in name structures also pose problemsfirst, middle, last names, prefixes or multipart names dont all fit intuitively into existing database structures. According to the Times, government agencies rely heavily on the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) to help identify potential terrorists. IBIS is a vast database of information on suspect individuals, businesses, vehicles, aircraft and vessels derived from the combination of dissimilar databases kept by the United States Customs Service, the INS, the State Department and 21 other federal agencies. A single nameparticularly a transcribed, transliterated or mistyped namecan easily disappear in such a system. Computers usually address the name-search problem with a simple key-based search that looks for a string of characters, and tries to find a match. But if the string is not exact, the process is futile. A more sophisticated search, using fuzzy logic, can look for similar strings and return the closest matches. But that can return many inaccurate results. The Times story talks to leading vendors in more elaborate name analysis. The future of name-searching, according to the companies working on it, is not in watch lists, but in sifting through huge quantities of digital documents, like those that might be found on terrorists’ computers or intercepted online.

Another story in todays

Baggage Handler Arrested in ParisThe Independent, police in France said today that a baggage handler arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris had a cache of weapons in the trunk of his car, including explosive devices ready to be used. Police were tipped off by a caller who spotted Abdrazak Besseghir, a French man of Algerian origin, standing at his car with one of the guns on Saturday morning. As a baggage handler, the Independent reports, Besseghir has security clearance for several restricted areas of one of Europe’s busiest airports. Anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation into the case immediately after the arrest, which comes just days after the Interior Ministry announced it had dismantled a terror cell with ties to Chechen rebels and Al Qaida that planned bomb or toxic gas attacks in France and Russia.

According to the U.K. newspaper

Yahoo Privacy WorriesSan Francisco Chronicle. Besides its business benefits, the acquisition might also give Yahoo unprecedented ability to monitor Internet users’ behavior and deluge them with tailor-made advertising based on one’s surfing.

Yahoo’s announcement that it plans to acquire search-engine powerhouse Inktomi for $235 million raises all sorts of troubling questions about who controls information in the electronic ether, as well as how that info gets exploited for commercial gain, according to a column last week in the

2000 Ballots Subject of New DebateOrlando Sentinel. Florida’s Division of Library and Information Services, which oversees which state records get retained and for how long, has told elections supervisors of the state’s 67 counties to hold on to all materials related to the November 2000 election until July 1. Ballots in Florida normally can be destroyed 22 months after an election.

Florida has postponed a decision on whether to preserve its 2000 presidential ballots, notorious hanging chads included, for future study of the bitter election that put George W. Bush in the White House, according to a story in todays