FBI wants to share, but how?

The FBI knows the agencies involved in homeland security need to do a better job of sharing information, but the bureau is having trouble deciding what to share with whom, its information resources chief said.

The FBI is willing to share information "with those who have a need to know. The problem is we don't know who has a need to know," Mark Tanner, FBI information resources manager, told technology business representatives Jan. 31.

In recent months, that confusion has increased. "There are so many agencies involved in homeland security, we don't have a clue what they need to know," Tanner said in an address to a Computer Marketing Associates forum.

Agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI need to link their computer networks in a way that permits sharing, but also allows control of access to information, Tanner said.

The agencies need a system that they trust to make information available to those who need it and withhold it from those who don't, he said. Developing a system that interconnects agency databases but protects them with multiple levels of security will be difficult, Tanner said.

Part of the challenge is technical. There are many different systems with no common architecture or common standards, he said. But part is proprietary. If the FBI gets information from the DEA and later shares it with the State Department, that might violate a sharing agreement with the DEA, he said.

To address information sharing problems, the FBI is developing a new systems architecture that it hopes to have ready in six months, Tanner said.

One thing the FBI is not looking for is new systems or new networks, Tanner said. "We need to enhance the systems we have," he told the business representatives, many of whom were anxious to learn how the agency plans to spend its $40 million share of the $20 billion of emergency supplemental funding Congress approved in December for homeland security.

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