Feds urged to take lead vs. terror

"Assessing the Implications of the Terrorist Attacks on America for Justice Information and Technology"

The federal government will have to invest billions to develop and expand

the telecommunications infrastructure, purchase equipment, do more research

and integrate government systems at all levels in order to prevent terrorist

attacks, according to a new report.

SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics,

released the report, which is based on assessments by a focus group of more

than 50 experts from local, state and federal governments and the private

sector conducted Dec. 11 to 12.

The group examined federal policies, laws and regulatory initiatives

since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Participants also evaluated the technical

and operational capabilities of existing technologies as well as the information

available in existing and planned databases, and they assessed the information

technology and business practice implications for state and local justice

agencies.

Federal counterterrorism legislation and policies passed after Sept.

11 — such as the USA Patriot and the Aviation and Transportation Security

acts — presumed the existence of automation among justice agencies and

the broad implementation of biometric technologies, said David Roberts,

deputy executive director of SEARCH, which is based in Sacramento, Calif.

But although some technologies exist, they are not linked to information

systems, he said. For example, a proposal for a "safe flier card," he said,

requires identity verification linked to databases, which would ideally

have relevant criminal justice information about that person boarding the

flight.

But Roberts added that officials also hadn't defined the criteria for

being able to hold a safe flier card, such as whether an arrest or conviction

for driving under the influence disqualifies a person.

"Now we've got to define the screening criteria and [whether] we're

going to exclude people with certain criminal convictions," he said as an

example.

Such technologies — whether for identity verification or detection

— need to be placed at critical areas and the level of automation among

all justice agencies in the country needs to be improved, Roberts said.

He added that because this is a national initiative, the federal government

has a significant leadership role.

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