FBI reviewing IT security

Senate Judiciary Committee FBI oversight hearing testimony

The FBI's information technology security practices are part of an internal review of the bureau's counterespionage efforts, said former FBI director William Webster, who is leading that review.

Attorney General John Ashcroft specifically requested that the review cover IT security, Webster said during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Webster said the review is looking at:

* The adequacy of the FBI's protection of computer and telecommunications systems.

* The bureau's audit trail capabilities examining the FBI's ability to track who has access to what information.

* The FBI's implementation of automated tripwire detection systems, which are used to notify officials when somebody is looking at information unrelated to their work.

Webster was brought in by FBI Director Louis Freeh, who steps down this week, in the wake of the arrest of Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent who was arrested in February on charges of spying for the Russians for 15 years.

Mark Tanner, the FBI's information resource manager, last month said that the bureau is looking at its computer security policies and practices in conjunction with the Webster study.

There is no indication that Hanssen took advantage of holes in IT security policies or procedures, Tanner said. Instead the review is part of an overall effort to enhance security at the bureau, he said.

Freeh appointed Webster to lead a commission that will make recommendations about what steps the FBI should take to prevent counterespionage incidents.

Beyond the bureau's information system security, Webster said his team is also looking at personnel security, document security and organizational security.

Webster was part of the Senate Judiciary Committee's panel of officials who have investigated FBI problems over the years. The committee has stepped up its oversight of the FBI since the Democrats took over the leadership of the Senate. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the Senate has been remiss for failing to monitor the bureau more carefully.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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