Safe Banking Systems Software, LLC, an innovative provider of anti-money laundering and compliance solutions, took barely a few hours in 2009 to mine the publicly available Federal Aviation Administrationâs Airmen Registry of one million names. The company identified six men including a drug kingpin, a terrorist and an arms trafficker who, unbeknownst to the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration, retained their federal aviation licenses in spite of being suspected or convicted of crimes that posed a risk to national security. SBS brought the information to the attention of the FAA and TSA, who immediately suspended several of the licenses. News outlets were quick to report the failure of the TSA to adequately screen their database to identify terrorists, drug lords and other criminals who held active airmen certificates.
SBSâs findings prompted four senators to ask the Department of Homeland Securityâs Inspector General to examine, among other things, the TSAâs vetting process for airmen licenses and determine if it is sufficient to detect threats. The final report was released last week, two years after the initial request. It gives no recommendations. Instead, it cites inconsistent data, inaccurate and falsified records, incomplete information, and an ineffective validation process as contributing to the TSAâs difficulty in properly vetting records.
âThe data issues the TSA faced with vetting their list of airman certificate holders are exactly what make screening large databases of information so challenging,â said David Schiffer, president, Safe Banking Systems. âWhether a bank filtering customer data against lists of Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and high-risk individuals or a government entity screening for terrorists, the need for a dependable, automated solution remains the same. Being able to accurately identify true matches in spite of spelling differences, language transliteration issues, name syntax, inconsistent information and input errors is critical for mitigating risk.â
Name matching, however, is only one of many data points that need to be reconciled for successful identification. SBSâs powerful entity resolution software goes beyond name matching. It delivers more accurate results by identifying complex relationships and patterns of interaction that link together seemingly disparate information.
This proved true when SBS discovered Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi, the Ex-Libyan intelligence officer and âLockerbie bomberâ held a valid FAA dispatcher license. SBS identified him by matching the common spelling of his name with that on the FAA Airmen Registry (Abdelbaset Ali Elmegrahi) and then matched his name to the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Al-Megrahi was further linked to an indicted co-conspirator via a shared post office box of Libyan Arab Airlines, his âofficialâ employer.
The commissioning of the Inspector Generalâs Homeland Security Department report validates the enormity of SBSâs earlier findings. SBS exposed what the TSAâs screening processes missed. It demonstrates how effective the right software solution can be in proactively identifying risk in large-volume databases.