Justice plans info sharing

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Law enforcement agencies may now be one step close to their information-sharing goals.

Justice Department Attorney General John Ashcroft announced a National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan that outlines policies, practices and technologies that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies can use to share case information.

"This plan represents law enforcement's commitment to take it upon itself to ensure that the dots are connected, be it in crime or terrorism," Ashcroft said today in prepared remarks for an event announcing the plan.

Officials in the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs organized a Global Intelligence Working Group, with members of all levels of law enforcement, to develop the plan. The group came up with more than 25 recommendations and action items, Justice officials said.

Today's proposal, Ashcroft said, emphasizes three guiding principles: prioritization — focusing efforts to prevent terrorism; mobilization — empowering agents with guidelines and policies to do their jobs better in certain areas, such as protecting citizens' privacy; and coordination — establishing the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

All law enforcement agencies should become involved, said working group Chairman Melvin Carraway, who described the plan as "a catalyst for real change."

Justice Department officials said they have already started some activities:

The Justice Department chief information officer formed a Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative to establish a strategy for guiding investment of resources into information-sharing systems and implementing this national plan.

Justice officials are investing in the research and development of tools to improve the use of intelligence data, such as extensible markup language standards, security standards and new analytical tools. Officials are also conducting pilot projects to improve the interoperability of information systems.

All parts of the Justice Department are adopting a common language for sharing information among systems: the Justice XML Data Dictionary.

Justice officials are improving training and technical assistance to information technology employees to improve the use and development of information-sharing systems.

FBI officials have established policies and procedures for sharing data across different classification levels and built an intelligence production and sharing process using technology in the Criminal Justice Information Systems Division.

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