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Business Technology Aids US War on Terrorism - 2001-11-05

Past wars required stepped up production of arms and aircraft, but the U.S. government is looking at some of the latest business technology for help in its war against terrorism. High tech firms across the country are lining up to help out.

For example, the same irradiation technology used to kill harmful bacteria in food can kill anthrax on envelopes.

Business database firms can aid in intelligence sharing by blending the computer networks of police agencies, courts and prison systems.

A technology used in filmmaking can transform fuzzy images recorded on security cameras at airports and hotels into recognizable faces.

Peter Baish of software maker ClearCross says all sorts of high tech firms like his are discovering new uses for their products. "It is a time where we get a chance to exert, from a private sector side, a public service viewpoint," he said. "Our software is more important now than it ever was."

Constrained by a lack of resources, the Customs Service hopes ClearCross's software will help keep certain goods out of the United States.

The company has created a database of illicit international organizations banned from U.S. trade.

"Illegal arms dealers, money launderers, terrorists, narcotics kingpins and things like that," said Mr. Baish. "We have actually offered our software to the government at no cost."

Logix, a Colorado firm, created a scanner that can tell the difference between a legal U.S. driver's license and a fake one. The company's product was designed to stop young Americans under the legal drinking age from using fake driver's licenses to buy alcohol.

Today, Logix spokesman Scott Bahneman says, the scanner is being adapted for anti-terrorist purposes.

"Since September 11, people really want to authenticate an individual's identity, whether it is before they board an airplane or access a high rise building, or public transportation," he said. "Because we have got something that works here and now, it gives us the ability to really get a clear idea of who is walking around there with a fake ID and who has a true ID."

Increasing numbers of high tech firms, like Logix, are expanding existing technologies to meet new kinds of demands.

Data mining companies, for example, are working on new systems that can extract information on terrorists living in the United States from raw commercial data. The tools are there, they say, it is just a matter of redirecting them for different uses.