TITLE: NameBase: A Cumulative Index of Books and Clippings

ACCESS: http://www.namebase.org/ or http://www.pir.org/nbhome.html

NameBase is an index of people influential in politics, the military, intelligence, crime, business, and the media since WWII. It started in the late 1960's when New Left activist Daniel Brandt began clipping magazine and newspaper articles and collecting investigative books about the power structure. He combed each book and article for the names of individuals, groups, corporations, and countries - developing a name authority file along the way. In the early 1980's, he incorporated Public Information Research to continue the work. NameBase includes close to 100,000 names from approximately 260,000 citations. The names are drawn from over 700 books and serials, plus a handful of documents recovered using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While the index does draw from the mainstream and right wing press, most books and articles come from a leftist perspective. Based on the democratic concept that the people have a right to know, the publications are generally investigative reports designed to uncover secrets or conspiracies in high places.

The simplest search available is the name search. Enter an individual or organizational proper name and NameBase displays a list of publications and the page numbers on which the name appears. Unfortunately, there is no synopsis describing who the people are or why they were mentioned. There is only a brief annotation describing the contents and politics of the publication. Instead, the user will need to track down the original source, either at a library or by ordering the material for a fee from Public Information Research. Fortunately, NameBase does more than list names - it also uses data mining techniques to list other names that appear on the same pages. This proximity feature, available under each name as well as a separate search, is the most valuable aspect of the database. If names appear on the same page of an investigative report, then logic dictates that the people named have some kind of relationship. The database creates a social network diagram by using cluster analysis to help the user visualize the data. Joseph Lieberman, for example, is most closely associated with Sybase chairman Mitchell Kertzman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

NameBase offers two other ways to search the index. The country search lists names associated with a non-U.S. country during a specified time frame. The document scan allows the user to submit a URL. NameBase extracts names from the web page (English language only) and looks them up in the index. As part of a brief tutorial (http://www.pir.org/tour1.html), NameBase gives an example of looking up the web page that lists the Board of Trustees at a University to find out their affiliations.

For those who like to browse, it is useful to start on the Public Information Research web page (http://www.pir.org). Browsing collections include FOIA documents, essays, and the source list for the index. 550 of the essays and source materials are also broken down into 20 broad subject categories such as Big Business (lobbying, corporations, intelligence) and Repression (federal, police). A search engine is hidden within the essays and source list browsing collections. NameBase offers limited access to non-registered users during peak hours and periods of high load on the server. During these times, users might retrieve only partial lists of names. Registering by paying $49 for two years provides unrestricted access and entitles the user to order photocopies or faxes of cited pages. Libraries may purchase library accounts for $199 for two years that identify users by IP address and eliminate the essays and editorial cartoons. NameBase is most useful to journalists and students tracking down investigative reports and looking for connections between names. It is also useful to students looking for an alternative perspective on topics like the Kennedy assassination, the overthrow of Allende, the Iran Contra affair, or the CIA role in the crack cocaine crisis. NameBase also provides unique access to the intelligence community, boasting "the largest collection of CIA names . . . publicly available anywhere in the world." NameBase is a fascinating one-of-a-kind index that belongs in every librarian's repertoire of name resources.

The telnet version of NameBase was previously reviewed for C&RL News Internet Reviews by Larry Schankman April 1996, Volume 57, Number 4, p243.

Mark Emmons
University of New Mexico
emmons@unm.edu


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