Three technology companies with deep roots in the Triangle sent representatives to a Department of Homeland Security “industry day” to discuss an “extreme vetting” system for use in immigration, according to documents published by The Intercept news site.

IBM, SAS and Red Hat were among technology firms at the two-day event at a hotel near the Pentagon, according to guest lists obtained and published by The Intercept. The conference took place July 18-19 and was expanded to two days due to corporate interest, The Intercept said.

SAS and IBM confirmed participation to WRAL TechWire.

“Members of the SAS US Government team attended the DHS Industry Days event, along with many other companies. These events are common when agencies are planning and researching projects,” a spokesperson for SAS told WRAL TechWire.

“In this case, the US government is trying to modernize systems and use analytics to improve a vetting process that is already occurring, but is largely manual and siloed in nature.”

While IBM acknowledged participation, a spokesperson noted that the company was not committed to the project.

“IBM has a large federal contracting business, and routinely attends ‘industry day’ listening sessions where client agencies brief multiple vendors on initiatives or projects they may be considering,” said spokesperson Doug Shelton.

“These informational sessions are the very earliest stage of the federal procurement process and, in some cases, the concept being discussed does not mature into an actual bid opportunity. With no bid details yet released, it is premature to speculate whether IBM would even pursue an opportunity stemming from this session.”

Shelton also said that ” IBM would not work on any project that runs counter to our company’s values, and long-standing opposition to discrimination against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.”

SAS and IBM are global leaders in analytics and data base software.

Red Hat declined to comment.

“We do not comment on speculation, so I am going to pass on the opportunity to comment on the report,” a spokesperson said.

SAS is based in Cary; Red Hat operates its headquarters in Raleigh. IBM operates one of its largest corporate campuses in RTP and employs several thousand people across North Carolina.

“Extreme vetting” project details

President Trump has called for “extreme vetting” of immigrants who want to come to the United States, an idea that has created a great deal of criticism as well as support.

According to documents which The Intercept said were from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of Homeland Security, said, the “Extreme Vetting Initiative” has the following “objectives:”

“ICE must evaluate and transform current vetting programs in an expedited fashion to meet the mandates outlined by the President’s Executive Orders that address American immigration and border protection security and interests.

“In an effort to meet the outlined mandates, ICE has initiated the process to obtain contractor services to establish an overarching vetting contract that automates, centralizes and streamlines the current manual vetting process
while simultaneously making determinations via automation if the data retrieved is actionable.”

Names of SAS and IBM representatives were included in two “sign-in” sheets published by The Intercept.

No Red Hat names were included but The Intercept listed Red Hat in its report: “Sign-in sheets from the ICE event show a sizable private sector turnout, including representatives from IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, LexisNexis, SAS, and Deloitte, along with a litany of smaller firms, such as Praescient Analytics, Red Hat, PlanetRisk, and Babel Street.”

“Performance objectives”

Four “performance objectives” were identified, according to the documents:

1. Centralizes screening and vetting processes to mitigate case backlog and provide law enforcement and field agents with timely, actionable information;
2. Allows ICE to develop richer case files that provide more value-added information to further investigations or support prosecutions in immigration or federal courts;
3. Allows ICE to perform regular, periodic and/or continuous review and vetting of nonimmigrants for changes in their risk profile after they enter the United States and;
4. Automates at no loss of data quality or veracity any manually-intensive vetting and screening processes that inhibit ICE from properly and [the rest of this point did not appear in the reprinted document.]

The project would be vast in compiling data.

“The Contractor shall analyze and apply techniques to exploit publically [sic] available information, such as media, blogs, public hearings, conferences, academic websites, social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, radio, television, press, geospatial sources, internet sites, and specialized publications with intent to extract pertinent information regarding targets, including criminals, fugitives, nonimmigrant violators, and targeted national security threats and their location,” a document explained, according to The Intercept.

“We are open to anything right now,” ICE added in an excerpt published by The Intercept.

“We’d have to run it thru Privacy but the idea is to be nimble here. We don’t want to be restrictive so we don’t want to strictly limit it to certain datasets. We recognize things are changing all the time as is our ability to navigate thru new permissions to enhance law enforcement’s ability to do their job. We expect that to continue in the near term to get the job done.”

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