Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation (VIMS)

Background

The Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation (VIMS) Program, sponsored by the DHS's Science and Technology Directorate ("S&T"), is a "research and development project designed to test the effectiveness of using social science to model and/or simulate violent group behavior." The stated goal of the VIMS program is to determine "whether including social and behavioral theories and concepts . . . in a software tool that is used to analyze group behaviors and motivations" can accurately predict group violence. In 2008, S&T published a Privacy Impact Assessment (“PIA”) for the "Violent Intent Modeling and System," which appears to be the same program that is later referred to as “Violent Intent Modeling and Simulation” in publicly available contracting data. According to the PIA, individuals will be linked by name to groups or associations that the VIMS program will track and label as “violent groups.” Information about groups and individual members are gathered from "public sources such as newspapers, scholarly journals, and publicly available databases." The agency acknowledges that this poses potential privacy problems, stating “The potential risk to the individual would be inappropriately associating an individual with a violent group.”

EPIC's Interest

EPIC has a strong interest in both open government and domestic surveillance. EPIC frequently makes use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information from the government about surveillance and privacy policy. Public disclosure of this information improves government oversight and accountability. It also helps ensure that the public is fully informed about the activities of government. EPIC routinely files lawsuits to force disclose of agency records that impact critical privacy interests.

EPIC also has a strong interest in domestic surveillance. In 2012 EPIC sought and obtained records revealing NYPD and CIA collaboration on the surveillance of Muslims and persons of Arab descent in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere. EPIC has also sought and obtained records regarding justifications for warrantless surveillance of international telephone and Internet communications on American soil, including mostly unredacted version of two key memos by former Justice Department officials.

EPIC's Freedom of Information Act Requests

On October 13, 2014 EPIC sent a FOIA request to the DHS asking for the following agency records: "All contracts, statements of work, and technical specifications related to contracts numbers HSHQDC08C00100, HSHQDC11F00087, and HSHQDC14A00015, including statements of work and technical specifications related to updates, modifications, and renewals of the above contracts."

Freedom of Information Act Documents

In response to EPIC's first request, the DHS produced the following documents:

On April 14, 2015, EPIC submitted another FOIA request seeking records that were specifically referenced in the agency's first document production, including workshop agendas, notes, research plans, and final reports.

Documents Produced in Response to EPIC's Second FOIA Request

  • DHS's First Interim Response (June 8, 2015)
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