FBI describes IT improvement

The FBI has been working hard to upgrade its outdated and highly criticized information technology systems, and still has much to do, FBI Director Robert Mueller told lawmakers today.

"Over the years, we have failed to develop a sufficient capacity to collect, store, search, retrieve, analyze and share information," Mueller testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about the war against terrorism. "The FBI has embarked on a comprehensive overhaul and revitalization of our information technology infrastructure."

Mueller said the bureau has made progress during the past 18 months and has laid the groundwork for the years ahead.

Among the FBI's IT initiatives is the $458 million Trilogy modernization program, which was designed as a three-year project to upgrade the bureau's infrastructure. The project has seen several cost overruns and has been criticized as being poorly managed.

However, in his written testimony, Mueller called Trilogy "the first step in the right direction" for the agency's modernization, noting that the infrastructure enhancements needed to support the system, such as workstations and network upgrades, are in place. He said officials expect that the full upgrade, including encryption devices and servers, will be completed by the end of this year.

Mueller, echoed by Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge and Justice Department Attorney General John Ashcroft, told lawmakers that sharing information among agencies is an important part of the war on terrorism.

The USA Patriot Act enacted in October 2001 allowed for more sharing among law enforcement and intelligence officials. It also allowed officials to implement new guidelines for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law passed in 1978 requiring officials to demonstrate probable cause before conducting electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes. Reforms have been made since then to ensure proper management of the systems, including a FISA unit under the FBI. "This unit is developing and implementing an automated FISA management system, and it oversees the expeditious distribution of FISA court orders and warrants to the appropriate field offices, telecommunication carriers, Internet service providers and other specified persons," Mueller said.

Ashcroft said the United States was winning the war on terrorism in part due to sharing vital counterterrorism information.

"The Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have set new standards for cooperation and coordination," he said. "The FBI's domestic intelligence operations are substantially strengthened by the CIA's information sharing, intelligence analysis and operation coordination."


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