The National Center for Border Security and Immigration
A DHS Center of Excellence Newsletter - July 2014

BORDERS Travels to Singapore

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS
In May 2014, BORDERS directors, Elyse Golob and Jay Nunamaker, were invited by the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of Science and Technology Chief Officer (OSTCO) to present a seminar to over 50 policy makers and operational personnel on "Deception Detection and Automated Investigative Technologies." Topics included: "What is deception? Types of lies and behavioral and physiological cues for detection", "Sensors: Linguistics, vocalics, kinesic, oculometric and physiometric", "AVATAR: Prototype development for a virtual human agent" and "AVATAR Experiments and Pilot Tests." The participants were most interested in how the automated screening could provide more accurate risk assessments, expedite traveler flow, and alleviate anticipated manpower shortages at land and air border crossings.

Under the auspices of the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Elyse and Jay also spent time at the Woodlands Checkpoint that connects Malaysia and Singapore. The checkpoint processes 300,000 travelers daily, including trucks, lorries, buses, motorbikes, and cars. ICA's two-fold mission includes: Border security - ensure that the movement of people, goods and conveyances through the checkpoints is legitimate and lawful; Identification - administer and uphold laws on immigration, citizenship and national registration fairly and effectively. Major threats that ICA is charged with detecting include smuggling, illegal immigration, and terrorism.

OSTCO, in conjunction with ICA, are investigating the use of the AVATAR (Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time) screening system to enhance the screening process at the Woodlands Checkpoint. The AVATAR has the ability to conduct primary and secondary screenings using an array of non-invasive sensors to detect suspicious persons and verify the identity of travelers passing through checkpoints. This type of system would act as a force multiplier, reducing strain on ICA personnel while increasing the flow of legitimate travel and trade.

In This Issue

  • Singapore Visit

  • Criminal Use of Social Media

  • Congratulations Graduates

  • NCBSI Summer Scholars Academy

  • About Us

  • Contact Information

The NCBSI Explores the Breadth and Scope of Organized Crime's Use of Social Media in the El Paso Region

El Paso, TX -- NCBSI
The suspected increase in social media usage by criminal elements has led to the increase need for federal investigative agencies to understand the scope and breadth of the use of social media by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). The National Center for Border Security and Immigration at the University of Texas at El Paso (NCBSI) (UTEP) has been tasked by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) SAC El Paso office to explore and understand the level of usage of various social media platforms by organized crime. This social media project runs from May-December 2014, and as of the beginning of July has already yielded very valuable data.

HSI El Paso provided some contextual training and literature to NCBSI staff and student researchers, involved in the project focused on identifying the scope and usage of the social media by the different TCOs and transnational gangs that operate both within Mexico and the United States. HSI continues to directly support the data collection process through onsite visits, and assigning special agents to continue training of the student researchers on different social media platforms. The NCBSI hired 6 student research assistants (Four graduate RAs, and two undergraduate RAs) from UTEP with an interest in future careers in the intelligence field to work on the data collection. The NCBSI also assigned one undergraduate research assistant from Clemson University to this project for 10 weeks as part of the Homeland Security Summer Scholars Academy.

Although data is collected periodically through all the different social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Mocospace, etc., the majority of the data collection is made through Facebook. During the early phases of the social media project, it was determined that these different types of social media platforms did not yield the same level of quantity and quality data as Facebook, and therefore at this stage only continues to play a minor role in the data collection process. A uniformed criteria or checklist was developed for each researcher used to determine whether evidence of criminal activity is observed on the different Facebook accounts that are explored. Once evidence and or a history of criminal activity are confirmed, the research assistants utilize standardized forms to document the activity on the specific Facebook account observed. Research assistants continue their observation and data collection of the specified account as long as evidence is provided that usage of the account for criminal intent continues. Observations and the data collected from these social media platforms will be analyzed to identify the different types of criminal usage, criminal networks, and the organizations that use them and the depth that the social media is being exploited by the criminal element.

NCBSI also collects data from social/news websites, narco blogs, and YouTube, to generate a bi-weekly open source report on recent relevant TCO and DTO activities that is submitted to HSI El Paso. This project was developed to provide further empirical evidence that social media is being leverage for criminal activities and more importantly to answer how and what criminal element, specifically TCOs and DTOs, utilize social media to aid or coordinate their criminal activities? The overall goal of the research is to gather as much information as possible from TCOs and DTOs on the different social media platforms and determine to what extent, and in what manner, TCOs and DTOs utilize social media to further their criminal ends.

Congratulations to BORDERS Recent PhD Graduates

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS
BORDERS is proud to announce that two of its Research Associates have recently defended their dissertations and successfully completed their doctoral degrees in Management Information Systems at the University of Arizona.

Jeffrey Proudfoot
Jeffery Proudfoot defended his dissertation titled, "Identifying Deception Using Novel Technology-Based Approaches to Uncover Concealed Information" in April. His work has focused on evaluating new sensors and methodologies that can be used to conduct concealed information tests using automated credibility assessment technologies. Jeff's research contributes to the ongoing development of the AVATAR project. As a Research Associate at BORDERS, Jeff's work has yielded two peer-reviewed journal publications, 12 conference papers, 2 conference posters, 7 conference presentations, co-authorship on an applied information security textbook, and over $450,000 in grants through the Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR). Jeff has accepted a position as assistant professor in the Information and Process Management Department at Bentley University in Massachussets.

Justin Giboney
Justin Giboney successfully defended his dissertation titled, "Development and Application of an Online Tool for Meta-Analyses Using Design Science Principles" at the beginning of July. Justin has accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Information Technology Management at the University at Albany. There, he will continue his work with hackers, fraud, and linguistics of deception that were part of his dissertation. Justin will also be part of an innovative team starting a new digital forensics major. Justin has published in information systems journals and conferences including, Communications of the Association for Information Systems, Americas Conference on Information Systems, and the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Congratulations Jeff and Justin!

NCBSI Summer Scholars Academy

El Paso, TX -- NCBSI

The University of Texas at El Paso's National Center for Border Security and Immigration (NCBSI) is hosting their annual Scholars Academy throughout the summer. The ten week program gives 17 students from across the nation the opportunity to engage in border security and immigration related research and career opportunities. This June, the NCBSI opened its doors to more students than ever before and has extended opportunities for scholars to work directly with homeland security agencies.

Scholars were selected to participate in one of two programs, with a focus on either academic research (option one) or an embedded internship with a local homeland security agency (option two). During their ten week stay at UTEP the scholars will engage in research, visit various homeland security agencies, interact with DHS professionals about career opportunities, and participate in professional development workshops. Throughout the program the scholars in program option one (i.e., academic research) are working with UTEP faculty members to research various aspects of homeland security, which will culminate in a research symposium presented to DHS stakeholders and UTEP faculty.

Although the Scholars Academy has existed for several years, this is the first year that the NCBSI will be offering the opportunity for students to partake in option two, the embedded internship program. Offered to both undergraduate and master's level candidates, the embedded internship program allows scholars the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in an applied, professional, environment that best fits the student's career aspirations. The students work closely with current professionals with a prospect of a future homeland security career in mind.

The breadth of the Scholars Academy experience is perhaps best described by the scholars themselves. "The research factor, as well as getting to work with professionals, is going be beneficial in teaching me things that I would never learn in a classroom," said Scholar Alexis Trumble, a Sociology and Psychology major from Clemson University. "I'm working on research on transnational crime organizations and social media. It's different, it's new. I've never done research quite like this, its fluid, its qualitative not quantitative. I've never studied human behavior quite like this."

With the location of UTEP on the U.S.-Mexico border, the scholars are able to see the "front lines" of border security and immigration, and they're able to share this experience in new-found friendships with other scholars. "The culture down here is different. I'm learning how to be a productive member of society and getting a crash course in friendship as I meet so many other students from everywhere in the United States," said Trumble.

The goal of the program is to present students with educational opportunities and insight on career possibilities with DHS. "Now I think that federal law enforcement is definitely for me. I don't want to spend my life in a lab," Trumble said. "I want to work for a federal agency. I know that I can do the research but I want to show that I can use it."

The Scholars Academy ends in August, but NCBSI believes the opportunity provided to students is simply a spring board to developing the next generation of homeland security academics and professionals. For more information, please visit the NCBSI website at or follow @NCBSI on twitter.


The National Center for Border Security and Immigration, co-led by the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Texas at El Paso, is developing technologies, tools and advanced methods to balance immigration and trade with effective border security, as well as assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends, and enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.

Questions and Comments

For inquiries regarding the Center, please contact: Elyse Golob, Executive Director, BORDERS or Victor Manjarrez, Associate Director, NCBSI:

- Elyse Golob, University of Arizona, Executive Director,
- Victor M. Manjarrez, Jr., University of Texas at El Paso, Associate Director,

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