Fedwire Briefs

The privacy watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit in federal court Dec. 3 that aims to force the National Security Agency to release sensitive documents thought to contain evidence of surveillance operations against U.S. citizens.

EPIC wants documents recently denied to Congress by NSA's general counsel on the grounds of attorney/client privilege. NSA also has failed to reply to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by EPIC to obtain the documents.

The lawsuit centers on documents that are said to detail the operations of the so-called Echelon global surveillance network. Echelon, a Cold War-vintage global spy system, is believed to consist of a worldwide network of clandestine listening posts capable of intercepting electronic communications such as e-mail, telephone conversations, faxes, satellite transmissions, microwave links and fiber-optic communications traffic.

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Federal group to provide GPRA help

The Commerce Department plans to award a contract to the National Academy of Public Administration to develop a consortium that would help agencies comply with the Government Performance and Results Act.

About 25 to 30 agencies are expected to join the consortium, which will help agencies integrate legislative and administrative requirements related to improving government performance, such as GPRA and the Clinger-Cohen Act, and help establish best practices for strategic planning.

GPRA demands agencies show what they accomplish with the money they spend. The Office of Management and Budget and Congress want agencies to explain how acquisitions contribute to their goals.

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DOD, GSA work on standard contract

The Defense Department and the General Services Administration have teamed to create a standard contract that all agencies could use to develop enterprise software agreements, which drive down the cost of software by allowing agencies to buy in bulk.

Rex Bolton, chairman of the Software Enterprise Initiative at DOD, said this week that DOD and GSA aim to develop a template that would simplify the process of awarding enterprise software agreements, many of which are based on the GSA Federal Supply Schedule.

DOD also is working with GSA to open its enterprise software agreements to other agencies. Bolton said he hopes to have a policy memo signed by the DOD CIO by the end of this year that will strongly encourage the use of the software agreements the department has in place.

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SBA certification streamlined

Companies that have small, disadvantaged business certification at the Transportation Department now face fewer obstacles to gain certification from the Small Business Administration. An agreement signed last month by DOT and SBA streamlines the process for certifying small, disadvantaged businesses across federal agencies.

The agreement allows small businesses that have been certified under DOT's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program to qualify for the SBA's Small Disadvantaged Business designation without filling out a new set of paperwork and restarting the certification process, SBA spokesman D.J. Caulfield said.

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ATF upgrades data system

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms last week unveiled a national online database to help track guns that have been used in crimes in an effort to stymie illegal gun trafficking.

The Online LEAD database contains records of more than 1 million weapons and is accessible to ATF agents in the agency's 331 field offices through a closed intranet. Agents can use Online LEAD to track serial numbers on guns from the manufacturer through the purchaser, and they can pinpoint hotbeds of gun trafficking through a ZIP code search of seized guns used in crimes.

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Microsoft cryptography OK'd

Microsoft Corp. last week announced that the cryptography in Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 completed the National Institute of Standards and Technology's FIPS 140-1 validation. The cryptography in the operating systems is used in such functions as encryption of files and key management for digital certificates.

The Windows NT 4.0 server and workstation operating systems also passed the C2 level of the Defense Department's Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria or "Orange Book." C2 is the highest level of validation possible for commercial operating systems.

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