tedster - 7:32 am on May 6, 2010 (gmt 0)
You're probably right - except that I've seen Google be a bit loose with the phrase "appears in links". It can also be the case that the query terms just appear on the linking page somewhere, not literally in the anchor text.
At any rate, you're also right that Whois information is used by Google. They have a partnership with one of the premier "domain intelligence" services - Domain Tools, LLC. You can purchase quite a depth of information from that business.