Modernization

Secret Service preps new threat database

In a privacy assessment released Aug. 29, the Department of Homeland Security said the Secret Service was retiring two legacy systems that were expensive to update and maintain.

The Protective Research information Management System and the Counter Surveillance Unit Reporting Database are out, and the Protective Threat Management System (PTMS) is in.

The news comes during an unusually raucous election season, in which social media is proving to be a busy channel for threats explicit and implicit against protectees, which include the presidential candidates.

PTMS records personally identifiable information on "individuals expressing threatening or inappropriate behavior and on other incidents that may impact the Secret Service's mission to protect persons, events and facilities."

The Secret Service obtains threat information through multiple channels, including its own investigations, news stories, reports from concerned individuals, reports from other agencies and communications on public-facing social media.

PTMS collects biographical information on subjects and information on how those records have been used by the Secret Service, including whether subjects have been checked against systems such as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or whether a case was reviewed by the Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center.

The system "relies heavily on information from other government law enforcement databases and is generally not the original source of collection," according to the privacy assessment.

DHS also noted that "due to the inherent risk of inaccurate information from publicly available sources, such as social media, there is a risk that the Secret Service will incorrectly identify individuals as the subjects of protective threat assessments." Therefore, although records stored in the system are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, the Secret Service will consider requests made through its FOIA officer to amend or correct information in the system.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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