Hank Asher has been a leading figure in the data industry since the early 1990s. After 9/11, he invented a data-searching product called "Matrix," which gives investigators nearly instant access to a rich dossier on virtually any adult in America. Matrix earned Asher a 2003 meeting at the White House with Vice President Cheney, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Asher founded Database Technologies (DBT) in 1992. After selling that company, he launched a new company, Seisint, in 1998.
Robert O'Harrow: So, what happened? Where were you on September 11th, 2001?
Hank Asher: I happened to be in my office. I was mostly fishing. I enjoy sport fishing. I enjoy going out. We go out for a week and we might not see a boat for a whole week. We go to very remote areas that are not traveled by tourists, or the fishing tournaments, or anything like that. We go out to relax, to see God's world in its untouched way, and it greatly relaxes me.
O'Harrow: So you'd been doing a lot of that, but that particular day, you happened to be at your office.
Asher: I was. And a guy called me on the phone and said, "You won't believe what happened." So I turned on my TV, and about 40 people came into my office and we all stood there and watched the second plane crash into the building. I instructed every salesperson and every employee in the company to start calling law enforcement, and telling them that they had unlimited, free access to Accurint to investigate what was going on.
We went to work doing that. We continued, then, all of September 12 and all of September 13. September 13 was a Thursday, and I was standing six feet behind you at that countertop right there doing the same thing that most Americans were doing: I was drinking. I had a martini in a glass that really was probably 6.25 martinis, and I drank it. And I was standing next to a good friend of mine for over 20 years, who's a retired law enforcement officer that now works at Accurint - at Seisint, rather.
And I said, "Bill, I know how to find these guys." And so, Bob, us 50-year-old guys were running across my house into my bedroom, which is about a 100-foot run, like we're children. And within 30 seconds, I had 32,000 people up of interest.
O'Harrow: Now, did the idea come to you just then. I mean, had it been bubbling, and it just came to you? What happened?
Asher: I had written a program, previously, to determine people's wealth that very much looked at a lot of the characteristics. The logic was very similar, and I realized that I had a model already developed that could be written a different way to look for this particular type of person.
At noon the next day, which was September - Friday, September 14, that night about midnight, I called Tim Moore [head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)] and said, "Tim, I think, if you can put together the right team of government officials and directors of departments, that we can catch these guys. We can find these guys."
O'Harrow: Now, which guys are you talking about?
O'Harrow: Obviously, not the ones who are dead. You were talking about their colleagues and people who -
O'Harrow: So, you called him at midnight.
Asher: And, FDLE started manning - They furnished and manned a secure facility that my scientists and my technologists and my programmers and I, ultimately, worked for the next two years, and are still working.
O'Harrow: How soon did that facility get up and running?
Asher: The FDLE guys showed up at about 9:00 in the morning, and the secure facility was built by Monday morning, from scratch, with computers on about 20 desks and a conference room tied into our supercomputers and the logic that we had developed.
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