Court Rules that Michigan State Police Must Disclose Information About MATRIX in ACLU Lawsuit

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
February 4, 2005 12:00 am

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DETROIT – A judge ruled today that an American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan lawsuit, which challenges state police participation in the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX), can move forward with discovery. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the organization and three individuals, including former Michigan Governor William Milliken and a Catholic nun, who say that MATRIX is out-of-step with state law.

“Today’s ruling will finally allow the sun to shine on the government’s methods of sharing private information on law-abiding citizens,” said ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss.

Since 2003, the Michigan State Police Department has provided not only criminal record data, but also driver’s licenses, motor vehicle registration records, credit histories and marriage and divorce records to MATRIX, which is owned by a private company in Boca Raton, Florida. The program ties together government and commercial databases for the purpose of conducting detailed searches on particular individuals and to search for patterns in the data. According to the ACLU, MATRIX contains a vast array of non-criminal information on Michigan residents, including information that is speculative, inaccurate and possibly constitutionally protected.

Records that have been or will be shared by the Michigan State Police with MATRIX include Gov. Milliken’s driver’s license and motor vehicle registration as well as the arrest records of Sister Elizabeth LaForest, a peace activist and co-plaintiff in the case who has been arrested and convicted of trespassing for participating in non-violent anti-war protests.

According to the lawsuit, police involvement in MATRIX violates Michigan’s Interstate Law Enforcement Intelligence Organizations Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Milliken in 1980 to prevent unsupervised and uncontrolled access to information about individuals. At the time the law was passed, Michigan law enforcement agencies were participating in an intelligence network similar to MATRIX for the purpose of fighting organized crime. However, they were also using the information to spy on individuals engaged in constitutionally protected political advocacy. The ACLU is concerned that MATRIX is vulnerable to the same abuses.

“Because of the enormous power and inherent danger in this type of system, it is vital that MATRIX operates in an open and accountable manner,” Moss said. “We will now be able to proceed to ‘discovery’ and determine if records are being compiled on innocent citizens.”

The next hearing date has been set for August 18, 2005 in Wayne County Circuit Court before Judge Warfield Moore.

For more information about MATRIX, go to

To read the complaint, go to:

To read the reply brief, go to:

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