The Databases that Feed the System

Our “Bestiary”


In this section, we describe key Department of Homeland Security, FBI and commercial data systems in detail. We have assigned each database an incarnation as a fantastical beast, creating a “bestiary” that we think illustrates the characteristics and reach of these complex systems.

The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.

Antonio Gramsci
  • A smartphone with cartoonish hands, feet and eyes. The screen of the phone shows a map of "location history" collected by the device.

    Analytical Framework for Intelligence (AFI)

    Analytical Framework for Intelligence (AFI) is a Palantir tool, uses profiling algorithms created for former President Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” initiative to “detect trends, patterns, and emerging threats, and identify non-obvious relationships between persons, events, and cargo.”

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  • An ID card with cartoonish hands, feet, and eyes. The words "Visa" and "United States of America" appear on the card.

    Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS)

    A person whose visa has expired is tracked through Custom and Border Patrol’s Arrival and Departure Information System (ADIS), which is used at entry and exit points, and includes photos, biographical and visa information, including the end date for an authorized stay.

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  • Interior view of a "panopticon" style prison. The central surveillance tower has three large cartoonish eyes which appear to be surveilling imprisoned humans. Sharp threatening teeth descend from the arch of the ceiling.

    Automated Targeting System (ATS)

    The Automated Targeting System (ATS), is Custom and Border Patrol’s main computer system that defines and predicts “risk,” and is one of the most important connective databases for current migrant data criminalization processes.

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  • A filing cabinet full of papers with cartoon hands, feet, a single cyclops-like eye and sharp teeth.

    Central Index System (CIS)

    Central Index System (CIS) is US Citizenship and Immigration Services' main database, containing biographical and status information of applicants seeking immigration and non-immigration benefits.

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  • A clump of monstrous dark clouds which are covered in commercial brand logos. The clouds appear to have mouths full of sharp teeth and snake-like tongues. Images of personal photos, utility bills, receipts and other items appear to dangle on interconnected threads from the clouds.

    Commercial data brokers

    Commercial data brokers collect and sell information about us collected from photos posted to social media, historic geolocation data collected by our cell phone apps, banks, credit agencies, purchase history, education records, employment records, property records and real-time location.

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  • A creature with many tentacles. At its center is a vortex descending into utter blackness. The creature holds a passport, a facial recognition image, an image of a fingerprint, and other objects in its tentacles.

    Enforcement Integrated Database (EID)

    Enforcement Integrated Database (EID) is an ICE “database repository” that stores extensive biometric and biographic information of individuals encountered, arrested, detained and deported by DHS sub-agencies. EID applications work together to create “person-centric” profiles of criminalized migrants that link with disparate data points from dozens of federal databases — including DNA samples, the US Courts’ PACER system files and US Postal Service bulk address datasets — creating a fractal of criminalization potential.

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  • A surveillance drone illustrated in a cartoonish style. The drone has 3 large eyes and several small propellers.


    FALCON is Homeland Security Investigations’ customized version of Palantir Gotham, a relationship mapping and predictive tool that provides search, analysis, geospatial referencing, reporting and connects multiple datasets. FALCON, like other Palantir tools, maps relationships between people and events, can organize information temporally or geographically, and creates data visualizations linking addresses, people, or organizations, along with geographic and chronological data points.

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  • A robotic centaur-like monster with the legs of horse, and the body of a humanoid robot. The monster is wearing the tactical military vest of a U.S. border guard and a cowboy hat. It is armed with a large whip, a large machine gun, and a walkie talkie device.


    TECS, Custom and Border Patrol’s international entry/ exit log of crossings of US borders since 1987, includes free-form notes written by Border Patrol agents and is being “modernized” into ICM, an “intelligence system” and database index built by the Silicon Valley tech company, Palantir.

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  • An office building seen from skewed perspective which reveals a mouth full of sharp teeth on the underside. Mug shots and facial recognition images appear in the windows. A clump of ominous dark clouds coverd in cartoonish eyes appears to be resting on the top of the building.


    The Automated Biometric Identity System (IDENT) is the central DHS biometric data registry for foreign nationals who have entered the US. Created in 1994, it stores fingerprints, and more recently, facial photographs and iris scans for biometric identification and cross-checking against other law enforcement datasets. It is expected to be replaced by the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology system (HART), a multi-billion dollar upgrade that would exponentially expand the agency’s capacity to collect, share and analyze a scaled-up and expanded range of biometric data, to be stored on Amazon Web Services’ GovCloud.

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  • An office building bearing the insignia for the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Human arms in suit jacket sleeves protrude from the building and curve upward. The hands at the end of each arm hold items such as passports, ID cards, and laptop computers.


    Described as the "lifeblood of law enforcement," NCIC is a computerized index and central federal database for open warrants, wants, and “lookouts” for people and allegedly stolen property.

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  • A monster with an ominous humanoid face whose body consists of a large ship. A cargo of humans is visible inside the base of the ship. Vaccuum hoses protruding form the upper body of the monster appear to be sucking up documents, human body parts, finger prints, and ID cards.

    Next Generation Identification (NGI)

    The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI), formerly Department of Justice Criminal Justice Information Services Division Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS, is purportedly the largest electronic repository of biometric information in the world.

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  • A floating monster. The monster's body appears like a dark whispy cloud. It is wearing a fedora hat pulled down over glowing eyes and holding a magnfiying glass in one if it's cloud-tentacles.


    Nlets is a backbone of today's migrant data criminalization machinery, sharing information between 45,000 law enforcement organizations nationally and internationally, and checking the fingerprints of anyone booked by police against DHS records.

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  • An airline ticket with cartoonish eyes, hands and feet.

    Passenger Name Records (PNR)

    Passenger Name Records (PNR) is data collected by commercial airlines and booking agencies at the point of a ticket purchase that include a traveler’s name, timestamped IP address, credit card number, itinerary, email address, and information about a person’s travel companions.

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  • A monster whose body consists of a paper application for naturalization to the U.S.A.  Tentacles protrude from the botton edge of the paper while three cartoonish hands hold the following items: a facial recognition image, a fingerprint, and an image of an iris-scan.

    Person Centric Query Service (PCQS)

    Person Centric Query Service (PCQS) is a US Citizenship and Immigration Services database that allows ICE officers access to sensitive information about an app­licant for immigration “benefits” such as citizenship, permanent status, temporary status, permission to apply for status, or work and travel authorization.

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  • An x-ray scanning device of the type used in airports to scan luggage. Sharp vertical teeth appear in the mouth of the device. Four tentacle-like arms snake outward from the body of the machine. Laser scanners are attached to the end of each arm.

    Secure Flight Passenger Database (SFPD)

    “Secure Flight” began as a program where commercial aircraft operators matched names from passenger reservations to FBI watchlists. Today, prediction and algorithmic tools decide who qualifies as a “risk,” and targeting rules can change daily.

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  • A group of five spider-like monsters with sharp teeth and long snaking tongues. The monsters appear to be encircling a driver's license.

    State DMV databases

    State departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) are a key source of surveillance data for law enforcement, commercial data aggregators, and others who can access it.

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  • A spider-like creature with 8 legs and 3 cartoonish eyes. The body of the creature consists of the circular insignia for the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center.

    Terrorist Screening Databases (TSDB)

    The “terrorist watch list,” maintained by the Department of Justice’s FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), includes biographical or biometric information of around one million people who are “known or suspected terrorists,” as well as their “relatives, associates, or others closely connected” to them. The standards used by the government, the evidence considered, and the list itself are secret.

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