Circuit

Shuffling the chairs at DHS

Michael Chertoff's long-awaited review of the Homeland Security Department may come out as soon as this week.

When Chertoff took over as DHS secretary in March, he started a top-to-bottom review of the department's operations. His goal is to make DHS operate and spend according to the risks and consequences of threats instead of by pork-based formulas. The original 90-day deadline has come and gone, and Chertoff promised Congress last month that he would have his recommendations in a month.

Chertoff has said the review's results won't be made public. But here's what Federal Computer Week has heard from many sources about what he may want to do:

  • Merge the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection divisions. As parts of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, customs and immigration officials used to knock heads and still do in DHS. Putting them back together may make DHS more efficient. Or it could be like locking two tomcats in a box.
  • Divide the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate into two organizations — one for information analysis and one for infrastructure protection.
  • Strengthen the chief information officer's position, which many current and former DHS officials say lacks sufficient budget and hiring authority.
  • Standardize the use of radio frequency identification technology across DHS.

It's likely that once Chertoff makes his announcement, department officials will fill many senior DHS positions that have remained vacant in anticipation of his recommendations.

US-VISITing across the pond

Jim Williams, director of DHS' U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, which screens foreign travelers to the United States to weed out terrorists, was scheduled to visit London this week. He will help set up a technical conference in September that will assist visa-waiver countries adopting new technologies to make their passports more fraud-resistant.

Although it's good that the federal government is making sure that foreign visitors don't pose security risks, perhaps it should focus instead on wolves in sheep's clothing. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that the State Department doesn't get critical information from the FBI or the Terrorist Screening Center to make sure terrorists and criminals don't receive U.S. passports.

When GAO's auditors ran the names of 67 federal and state fugitives through State's system, they found that fewer than half the fugitives — including one on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list — were in it.

Sandra who?

You never would have known that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had announced her resignation July 1 by looking at the Supreme Court's Web site, www.supremecourtus.gov. Nothing there indicated that anything had changed, not even under the "What's New" section.

Only by digging deeper could you find a copy of O'Connor's resignation letter to President Bush.

But the first vacancy on the nation's highest court in 11 years is also the first one in the Internet Age. And Web sites everywhere, not to mention Web logs, were immediately abuzz about the vacancy. As Bush gets closer to announcing his selection for a replacement amid expected fireworks, we expect the Supreme Court will be brought into cyberspace with a bang, not a whimper.

Open it up

Several organizations have started a Web portal to free Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports from the grips of the Library of Congress. The CRS, a taxpayer-funded, lawmaker-only think tank, writes papers on a variety of controversial political issues.

The new site, www.opencrs.com, aggregates personal and nonprofit collections of CRS reports that members of Congress have voluntarily released. CRS is mandated to serve Congress, but lawmakers are free to release reports when constituents ask or if they have an issue to sell. The site's collaborators hope their search engine will pummel congressional representatives into passing legislation that would release all nonclassified reports.

The effort to launch the site was simple and the demand has been intense. The brainchild of the Center for Democracy and Technology, the site cost less than half of one researcher's salary to launch. Since going live two weeks ago, there have been more than 47,000 downloads of reports. Hot topics include steroids and energy policy.

Speaking of libraries ...

A study by researchers at Florida State University found that 98.9 percent of libraries offer free public Internet access.

Reporter jailed

Friends of the New York Times' Judith Miller have found an outlet for outlining what is happening to the reporter jailed last week for refusing to divulge the name of her source in a leak investigation. The site is www.judithmiller.org. It outlines her case and its status. n

Got a tip? Send it to jhasson@fcw.com.

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