[ISN] Intelligence Gap: How a Chinese National Gained Access to Arizona’s Terror Center

http://www.propublica.org/article/lizhong-fan By Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica and Andrew Becker, Center for Investigative Reporting, illustration by David Sleight, ProPublica August 26, 2014 LIZHONG FAN’S DESK WAS AMONG A CROWD of cubicles at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center in Phoenix. For five months in 2007, the Chinese national and computer programmer opened his laptop and enjoyed access to a wide range of sensitive information, including the Arizona driver’s license database, other law enforcement databases, and potentially a roster of intelligence analysts and investigators. The facility had been set up by state and local authorities in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, and so, out of concerns about security, Fan had been assigned a team of minders to watch him nearly every moment inside the center. Fan, hired as a contract employee specializing in facial recognition technology, was even accompanied to the bathroom. However, no one stood in Fan’s way when he packed his equipment one day in early June 2007, then returned home to Beijing. There’s a lot that remains mysterious about Fan’s brief tenure as a computer programmer at the Arizona counterterrorism center. No one has explained why Arizona law enforcement officials gave a Chinese national access to such protected information. Nor has anyone said whether Fan copied any of the potentially sensitive materials he had access to. But the people responsible for hiring Fan say one thing is clear: The privacy of as many as 5 million Arizona residents and other citizens has been exposed. Fan, they said, was authorized to use the state’s driver’s license database as part of his work on a facial recognition technology. He often took that material home, and they fear he took it back to China. […]