Trapwire

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Trapwire Inc. came to prominence in August 2012 after Wikileaks released a series of emails from Stratfor which documented the company and its operations.

Company Details

Public Intelligence states that the Abraxas Corporation 'originally created TrapWire under its subsidiary Abraxas Applications in 2006 [1]. Abraxas was purchased by Cubic for $124 million in late 2010 [2]. As of August 2012, confusion exists over the relationship between the two Abraxas companies, Cubic and Trapwire. Cubic Corporation issued a statement on August 13 acknowledging it was the owner of the Abraxas Corporation but insisting that 'then and now' Abraxas Corporation 'has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc.' [3]. This suggests that Abraxas Applications separated from Abraxas Corporations and became Trapwire Inc at some point between the 2006 trademark filing and the late 2010 Cubic purchase.

Justin Ferguson has worked on further information from SEC filings and the state of Virginia to try and determine if, and how, the companies were or are linked. A summary of his research can be found at Cryptome [4]. At the same site is is additional information from Abraxas' history by John Stanton [5].

Despite Cubic's denial of affiliation, Abraxas Corporation subsidiary Abraxas Dauntless shares an interlocking directorate including Richard Hollis Helms with both TrapWire and Ntrepid at least as recently as 2012-09, and appears to have done so continuously since the merger with Cubic.

Information at the Corporation Wiki compiled from official filings with the California and Texan state governments and Dun & Bradstreet (last updated 23 July, 2012) state that Trapwire Inc.'s 'line of business' includes 'Security Systems Services' it has a location at 1875 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, Virginia.

The Corporation Wiki lists the 'active officers' as:

  • Richard Hollis Helms - Chief Executive Officer and Director
  • Robert Botsch - Vice President
  • Daniel R Butsch - Vice President
  • Dan Johnson - Director
  • Joan McNamara - Senior Vice-President
  • John Reis - President
  • Alicia C Saia - Director

As of 14 August 2012, Trapwire had removed the 'Leadership' page from it's website. Screen captures of the page at Flickr provides some additional, but also conflicting, names and information:

  • Dan Botsch - President
    • 'served 11 years as an intelligence officer with the CIA'
  • Michael Maness - Director of Business Development
    • '20 years of service with the Central Intelligence Agency...'
  • Michael K. Chang - Director of Operations
    • 'served 12 years the Central Intelligence Agency'
  • Paul Chada, Director of Information Technology

What Is Trapwire?

Trapwire is described in a 2006 document submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office as 'Pre-attack Terrorist Detection System For Protecting Critical Infrastructure'.

The document suggests that 'Terrorists will typically surveil multiple facilities prior to selecting an appropriately vulnerable target' and Trapwire, they argue, 'is specifically designed to exploit this... by combining':

  • 'deep counterterrorism experience'
  • 'proven counter-surveillance techniques'
  • 'unique sensor systems'
  • 'data mining capabilities'

The 'Trapwire system' is used to collate reports of 'suspicious events' for a given facility, these are compared to 'other event reports for that facility' and 'related facilities across the network'.

In order to 'collect and process' that 'suspicious event data' Trapwire 'utilizes a facility's existing technologies (such as pan-tilt-zoom [PTZ] cameras) and humans (security personnel, employees, and neighbours).' Once collected the data is recorded using Trapwire's own standardized format, this includes:

  • PersonPrint 'a 10-characteristic description of individuals'
  • VehiclePrint 'an 8-charcateristic description of vehicles'
  • 'Potential surveillance activity ... photography, measuring and signaling'

The document states a key feature of the system is the Trapwire rules engine' which processes human generated reports with information from sensors. The 'Trapwire rules engine' searches and compares data at the facility and, optimally, across the 'Trapwire network' of other facilities using the system to 'detect terrorist surveillance and deter the attack'.

Another feature is the 'Trapwire Threat Meter (TTM)' which is modeled on the Department of Homeland Security 'color-coded threat alert':

  • 0-20 Green
  • 21-40 Blue
  • 41-60 Yellow
  • 61-80 Orange
  • 81-100 Red

Trapwire, it says, 'continuously assesses' data and 'automatically provides' each facility TTM reports. A graphic included in the document provides an example of the reporting output which includes 'a web monitor displaying the protected facility and surrounding neighborhood'.

Since 2006 Trapwire has expanded into three distinct systems with only the first, Trapwire Critical Infrastructure, appearing to relate to the initial trademark filing. On its website Trapwire describes:

  • TrapWire Critical Infrastructure (TW-CI) which 'focuses on the identification of pre-operational surveillance activities' at facilities or 'sites' in the Trapwire network.
  • TrapWire Community Member (TW-CM) which 'supports the online reporting of suspicious behavior by community members'. Specifically such as iWatch in [Los Angeles] and [Washington DC] and 'See Something Say Something' in Las Vegas and New York
  • TrapWire Law Enforcement (TW-LE) which 'provides the ability to gather, analyze and disseminate information about surveillance and logistical activities occurring across an entire geographic region, including information gathered via TW CI and TW CM deployments'.


Wikileaks GIFiles & Stratfor

On February 27th, 2012, [Wikileaks] began publishing emails from Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor), a Texas based 'global intelligence company'. The release was called the 'Global Intelligence Files' or [GIFiles] and, in early August 2012, included the first mentions of Trapwire.

One of the earliest outlets to write on the release, Russia Today, highlighted 'What is believed to be a partnering agreement' between Stratfor and Trapwire from August 13, 2009 'to provide them (Stratfor) with analysis and reports of their TrapWire system' [6]. Wired went further in Trapwire: It’s Not the Surveillance, It’s the Sleaze identifying the signing of that contract on August 17, 2009 and noting its '8 percent referral fee for any business' Stratfor sent to Trapwire [7]. The kickback was unknown when, Wired reports, the then Stratfor Vice-President 'co-wrote an essay on emerging terrorist threats and the means to stop them. Particularly impressive, Burton wrote, was a new software tool called Trapwire...'

Wikileaks' [GIFiles] also reveal a range of clients for Trapwire as reported by Stratfor. These include (according to Burton in 2011) a former President of the United States who was 'NOT afforded USSS/Counter Sniper coverage, however, their residences are covered by TrapWire (intuitive video surveillance.)' [8]. Public Intelligence draws from the emails to add confirmed, rumored and potential clients as:

  • Scotland Yard
  • UK Prime Minister's residence 10 Downing Street
  • British security service MI5
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • New York Police Department
  • Las Vegas Police Department
  • 'fourteen different hotels and casinos' in Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles Police Department
  • Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence Center
  • The White House
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • U.S. Navy
  • Pentagon
  • Dell
  • Wal Mart
  • Nigerian government and 'Presidential Palace'
  • 'many multinational corporations'

However, a central problem with the emails in clearly identifying those using Trapwire is that Stratfor, with its 8% referral fee, is possibly 'talking up' the usage of the product to other potential clients.


Further Reading

  • A Short Revelation on Trapwire, Cubic, and Public Surveillance, Kept Simple for People Who Can't Read Sentences That Are Hard by Barrett Brown [9].
  • Unravelling TrapWire: The CIA-Connected Global Suspicious Activity Surveillance System from Public Intelligence [10]
  • Trapwire and data mining: What we know from PrivacySOS [11]
  • A Brief Introduction To Abraxas (TrapWire) And Their Partnership With STRATFOR from TechFleece [12]
  • Wikileaks uncovers TrapWire surveillance: FAQ from ZDNet [13]
  • Cubic Analyzing Global Media: Abraxas' TrapWire Not Offered by Cubic by John Stanton at Cryptome.org [PDF] [14]
  • Government surveillance system Trapwire could be illegal from 109 [15]