IT on the agenda

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9-11 Commission, last week examined the role of law enforcement and intelligence communities in preventing future terrorist attacks. Information technology was very much a part of the discussion. Here are a few highlights:

The FBI was in the hot seat for poor IT, which impeded the bureau's ability to share and gather case information. "The FBI's primary information management system, designed using 1980s technology already obsolete when installed in 1995, limited the bureau's ability to share its information internally and externally," the commission said in a staff statement.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh told the commission he continually asked for funding for IT upgrades, but bureau officials and Congress could not agree on the implementation and funding plans. "There was universal agreement that the FBI needed the IT upgrade," Freeh said in written testimony. "However, there was disagreement on the type of contract vehicle being proposed, how much the FBI could or should do using in-house capabilities vs. contractors, deployment to field offices, stating of the capabilities within each phase and cost."

The new Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) allows intelligence agents to share information using integrated databases and comprehensive search tools, TTIC Director John Brennan told the panel. Analysts at TTIC have direct access to 14 government networks, and officials plan to connect an additional 10 networks. During the next year, officials will build the technology infrastructure for faster search capabilities. Also, the top secret Web site, TTIC Online, has made more than 3.5 million terrorism-related documents at various classification levels available to those in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.

The FBI has taken great strides since Sept. 11, 2001, to improve its IT infrastructure, and the final piece of the Trilogy modernization program will be in place in a few months, said FBI Director Robert Mueller. "While there is still much to be done, these efforts are starting to deliver the technology we need to stay ahead of evolving threats," he said in a report to the panel. "Upgrading our technology will remain an FBI priority for the foreseeable future."

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