FBI outlines security upgrades
- By Sara Michael
- Aug 14, 2003
"A Review of the FBI's Performance in Deterring, Detecting and Investigating the Espionage Activities of Robert Philip Hanssen"
The Justice Department's inspector general (IG) has plenty of suggestions to improve FBI security, but the law enforcement agency said it has already carried out many of them.
An IG report released today outlined 21 recommendations for the FBI to improve the security of national information from espionage. At the same time, the FBI released a response, outlining several changes it has already made.
Since the arrest of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen two and a half years ago, the bureau has made several security reforms to better detect espionage, including creating a central warehouse for information about people given FBI clearance, and installing a system to track unauthorized access to sensitive documents.
"The FBI has already implemented many new measures, including the creation of a special Counterespionage Section to protect critical national security information, and a Penetration Unit to uncover those who would steal and sell our national security secretes to foreign agents," Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a statement.
The IG recommended a central repository for derogatory information about FBI agents with access to sensitive information. Bureau officials said they have contracted with a vendor to create a data store with a single interface to enter data on clearance actions and track a person's security clearance activities.
"Although we found that the FBI has taken many important steps to improve its internal security program since Hanssen's arrest...some of the most serious weaknesses still have not been fully remedied," the report states.
The agency is developing tools to ensure only cleared users can get specific data. The FBI is implementing the Public Key Infrastructure Program to provide users with a digital identity.
"The FBI's state-of-the-art Trilogy network will have the capability to provide a new level of security and new capabilities, such as the ability to track unauthorized access to files," the FBI said in the response to the IG report.
The report recommends that the FBI track classified information. Agency officials responded that they are in the process of issuing a contract to implement improved levels of security for sensitive electronic and paper documents.
Other FBI security improvements that correspond to the IG's recommendations, include:
* A permanent unit that was created in May 2002 under the bureau's Counterintelligence Division, to investigate allegations of penetration into the FBI.
* Certification of the FBI's Top Secret network and legacy systems to ensure the information systems.
* A financial disclosure program begun in May to verify financial information from selected employees.
The IG criticized the FBI for "significant, longstanding deficiencies" in internal security. Hanssen used the bureau's Automated Case File system to track sensitive espionage investigations, including references to his own name, the report said. The system, which the report says lacked strong security measures, will be replaced by the Virtual Case File system, expected to be implemented by December.