What the Heck is TrapWire?

 What the Heck is TrapWire?
by Susan Basko, esq.

  Please link and quote, but don't steal my stuff.  I worked hard on this.  Thanks.

 If you are concerned about TrapWire, you should read about Axxon.

Also see: The Human Audit: What is it?

Lately, there has been much ado about TrapWire, which is said to be a giant network spying on all of us.  My research says this is much ado about nothing.  TrapWire, as far as I can tell, is the Emperors New Clothes.  It seems to be an extremely simple data-sorting computer program, marketed to the government sector using fear of terrorists as its selling point.

TrapWire is the name of a corporation, a computer program, and the consulting services that go with it. TrapWire, Inc., has Dan Botsch,  a University of Chicago MBA, as its current president.  Before him, Jack Reis held the post.  TrapWire, Inc., comes off an incestuous lineage of many mergers and acquisitions that involve the same players over and over again.  Richard Hollis Helms, a former CIA agent, shows up repeatedly as the CEO.  Lance Cottrell shows up repeatedly as the Lead Computer Scientist.  Margaret A. Lee repeatedly shows up as the Corporate Secretary.

The basic lineage is Abraxas Corporation > (offshoot corporation) Abraxas Applications (name change to) > TrapWire, Inc.  Abraxas Applications was spun off Abraxas Corporation, apparently as a holder for the TrapWire product, and then a name change was done, turning Abraxas Applications, Inc. into TrapWire, Inc.   There are many spin-offs and sideshows and earlier stepcousins, such as Anonymizer and Ntrepid, but those will be covered in later essays.  This whole corporate lineage is big on branding and trademarking its products, taking loans on its trademarks, splitting almost each product into a corporation, and marketing through fear.  My searching shows only one patent owned by Abraxas Corporation, for a software that translates language.  I also found one patent owned in part by Lance Cottrell, for an anonymizing software.  In contrast, Cubic Corporation, which recently acquired Abraxas Corporation, easily shows ownership of over 100 patents.

 (Please note: Abraxas Corporation is entirely different from Abraxas Software, Inc.  These are two totally different entities not in any way related.)

On June 22, 2007, Abraxas Corporation assigned the Trapwire trademark to Abraxas Applications Inc., for $1, with the document signed by "Richard  H. Helms CEO, Abraxas Corporation".  On June 27, 2011, Abraxas Applications Inc., registered with the trademark office that it had a new name, TrapWire, Inc., with Richard Hollis Helms having signed the corporate name change on January 12, 2011 as “CEO and Sole Director.”

Cubic Corporation issued a Press release dated 8/13/2012 titled, “Cubic Corporation Has No Affiliation with Trapwire, Inc.”  It then states: “Cubic Corporation (NYSE: CUB) acquired Abraxas Corporation on December 20, 2010.  Abraxas Corporation then and now has no affiliation with Abraxas Applications now known as Trapwire, Inc.”  This is a case of telling the truth, but not the whole truth.  The statement continues, “Erroneous reports have linked the company with Trapwire, Inc. Trapwire, Inc. is a risk mitigation technology and services company that builds and markets software products to prevent terrorist threats and criminal attacks.”  It depends what you consider “linked.”

What’s the reality here?  The reality is that Abraxas Corporation, led by Richard Hollis Helms, who is reportedly a former CIA agent,   “developed” a trademarked name for a product and service called “Trapwire.”  Abraxas Corporation then assigned the trademark to Abraxas Applications, Inc., also led by Richard Hollis Helms.  Then Abraxis Applications, Inc. changed its name to Trapwire, Inc.  Cubic Corp. bought Abraxas Corp., but it did not buy TrapWire, Inc.  Therefore, on December 20, 2010, Abraxas Corp had “no affiliation” with Trapwire.  But earlier, there was an affiliation between Abraxas Corporation and Abraxas Application, Inc./ Trapwire, Inc.   Cubic Corporation is not and never has been affiliated with TrapWire, Inc. or with the TrapWire product.   

What appears to have happened is that Abraxas Corp. separated off the golden egg before selling the goose to Cubic Corporation.  Trapwire WAS affiliated with Abraxas Corporation, but it was separated off before Cubic Corporation got involved.    

LET ME EXPLAIN IT MORE CLEARLY, since there seems to be such confusion.  Abraxas Corporation developed a product called Trapwire.  At some point, I believe in 2007 (the actual date is difficult to determine because the original incorporation documents have been purged from the records and replaced with the later "name change" records),  Abraxas Corporation split off a corporation called Abraxas Applications, Inc., mainly to hold the Trapwire product, as well as the Personprint and Vehicleprint products, which are part of TrapWire.  In 2010, Cubic Corporation bought Abraxas Corporation, but it did not purchase Abraxas Applications.  In 2011, Abraxas Applications, Inc., changed its name to Trapwire, Inc.  Cubic Corporation has never been involved in the TrapWire product or TrapWire, Inc. 

(Note:  People are asking about Abraxas Dauntless.  Dauntless was a Virginia-based software company started by Michael Martinka.  Abraxas Corporation bought Dauntless to build software for its products.  The company is now called Abraxas Dauntless and is now part of Abraxas Corporation, which is now owned by Cubic Corporation.) 

TrapWire, Inc.'s main product is TrapWire, which is software and consulting services on how to use the software.  The software seems to be a very simple program that works like this:  Security guards at government building or locations watch through security cameras to see if there are any notable people or vehicles.  If they see anything notable, they fill out a form on a computer.  The software checks to see if the same person or vehicle is visiting the same place multiple times.  Various locations are linked through the software.    If the same person or vehicle visits multiple locations, the system sends out an alert. This is all based on the idea that a terrorist will case a place several times before blowing it up.  That seems likely.  Other people who will also visit the same place multiple times include the UPS delivery person, the local pizza man, dog walkers, joggers, and many others.

When a security guard sees a notable person, the guard fills out this form, which TrapWire, Inc. calls PersonPrint.    

TrapWire PersonPrint Computer screen form field.

The information fields to be entered are Gender: Male/ Female/ Unknown, Height, Build, Age, Primary Hair Color, Secondary, Facial Hair Type, Facial Hair Color, Complexion, Glasses.  This is the sort of information that is gathered upon observation, without a show of identification or questioning.

If the guard sees a notable vehicle, this form, which TrapWire calls VehiclePrint,  is filled.   

The information fields on the TrapWire VehiclePrint page are: License, State, Country, Type, Make, Model/Name, Color, Doors, Appearance, Number of Occupants.  This is information that could be observed through a camera close-up or in person, without stopping the vehicle.

TrapWire's Safe Harbor provisions, state that Trapwire systems "in general, do not store Personal or Sensitive Personal Information." If they do gather such information, they promise not to share it with third parties.   The Safe Harbor provisions are posted below after this essay.  To enlarge the pages, pull them off the page and click to enlarge.  They are jpegs.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY: Abraxas Corp./ TrapWire, Inc.  is providing a simple data coordination system.  This is not high tech.  It is not all -encompassing. This is a simple old-fashioned database program marketed to one idea - that terrorists visit a site many times before they attack.  If that were true, then alert human security guards are likely to catch that.  TrapWire coordinates the software between multiple sites.  Why would a terrorist visit sites other than the one that  he  or she plans to attack?  Perhaps as a first visit to check out vulnerable spots.

  There does seem to be significant potential for abuse with TrapWire.  Are people free to be in public spaces without being scrutinized on camera and having their descriptions recorded?  Apparently not.  Note on page 5, TrapWire explains that as a neighborhood changes, the criteria will change.  I suppose this means, as an imagined example,  that if the system regularly flags Arab-looking men, that if a neighborhood becomes one where many Arabs live, it won't flag them so readily.

On the Trapwire, Inc. website as of September 2012, TrapWire states that the company will provide a service that covers a wide geographic region, rather than a government site of interest, as was the original plan: "TW-LE (TrapWire Law Enforcement) provides the ability to gather, analyze and disseminate information about surveillance and logistical activities occurring across an entire geographic region . ." See last paragraph on:  https://trapwire.com/trapwire.html

Do we want our nation spending large amounts of money for such a system? It seems that recent terrorist type attacks have been one-off gun massacres by educated white males who appear to have done no significant prior surveillance of the site.

Also, TrapWire does not sound as if it offers anything of real value.  An alert, awake security guard is able to tell if there is a repeat visitor to a location or if a particular visitor seems out of the ordinary.

At the very least, we need to know what TrapWire is and have a public discussion about whether we want our tax dollars spent this way.

Robert Steele, in his thought-provoking review on Amazon. com for the book  "Spies for Hire, The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing," (a review you should read in full if you care about this topic)  writes:

"Here are three tid-bits that strongly support the author's general intent, and some links.

1) Secret intelligence scam #1 is that there is no penalty for failure. Lockheed can build a satellite system that does not work (for NASA as well as the secret world--two different failures--or get the metrics wrong so priceless outer space research does not deploy a parachute--}and get another contract. Similarly SAIC with Trailblazer, CACI in Iraq, Blackwater murdering civilians and ramming old men in old cars out of the way, this is all a total disgrace to America.

2) "Butts in seats" means that most of our money goes to US citizens with clearances who know nothing of the real world, *and* the contractor gets 150% of their salary as "overhead." That is scam #2.

3) Scam #3 is that the so-called policy world, when it exists, does not really care what the secret world has to say, unless it justifies elective wars, secret prisons in the US (Halliburton) and so on. Dick Cheney ended the policy process in this administration. But even without Cheney and his gang of proven liars, the dirty little secret of the secret world is that a) there is no one place where all information comes together to be made sense of; and b) less than 1% of what we collect gets looked at by a human; and c) most of the policy world could care less what Top Secret Codeword information is placed before them--as Colin Powell says so memorably in his autobiography, he preferred the Early Bird compilation of news clippings.

I have been saying since 1988 that the secret emperor is not just naked, but institutionalized lunacy. Books like this are helpful, eventually the public will hear our voice." 

 Note on Patent for TrapWire: Abraxas Corporation and Abraxas Applications posted "Patent Pending" on materials advertising the TrapWire product, as can be seen on the document above. However, the Patent Application number was not listed.  After several thorough searches of the U.S. Patent Office database, I cannot find a patent or patent application for this product or any product that sounds like it in the name  of TrapWire, Abraxas, Lance Cottrell, Ntrepid, Richard Helms, or other names that might be associated.  Lance Cottrell and Brian Bennett own a patent on an anonymizing software, and search on Brian Bennett shows one more application and one other patent, but neither relates to TrapWire.  It is possible a patent was or may be pending in the name of the inventor, with an agreement to sign it over to TrapWire if and when a patent is granted.  However, a significant number of years has passed since Abraxas Corporation began stating "Patent Pending"regarding Trapwire and it appears there has been no assignment of any patent to Abraxas Corporation.  THEREFORE, the conclusion I draw is that there is no patent on TrapWire.  

 Some software has copyright registered on it.  A search of the U.S. Copyright Office does not show any software with the title, keyword or name as TrapWire, Abraxas, Richard Helms, or Lance Cottrell.  If TrapWire, Inc., wants to let me know otherwise, I am happy to post about it.

The TrapWire website now refers to "unique predictive software" "utilizing a proprietary rules-based engine."  This does not state what makes the engine proprietary or who the owner of it is.  Again, it seems to be very simple sorting software hyped to appear as something more than that.


TrapWire Safe Harbor Provisions page 1.  

TrapWire Safe Harbor Provisions Page 2.

click on images to read:
TrapWire Explains what it does. Page 1

TrapWire Explains what it does. Page 3  

TrapWire Explains what it does.

TrapWire Explains what it does Page 5