DOJ writes to share

Justice Department's Office of the Chief Information Officer

Justice Department officials are creating a new philosophy that could enhance information sharing within the law enforcement community, the department's chief information officer said yesterday.

Vance Hitch, Justice's CIO, said department officials normally write cases and then extract from that information they are willing to share with other federal, state and local law enforcement officials. But the "write to share" philosophy — which would require a certain cultural change within several law enforcement entities — would require an official from the very start to define what needs to be shared, he said.

Then, as an appendage, the official would define information that cannot be shared. For example, in a public corruption case, Justice officials wouldn't want to share information with local officials that could jeopardize the case.

Hitch, who along with several officials from the Homeland Security and Defense departments, was speaking at an Industry Advisory Council-sponsored panel about information sharing and collaboration.

He outlined a Justice plan called the Law Enforcement Information Sharing (LEIS) program in place for a year now. It is not a system, he said, but a collection of all such initiatives in the department — about 43 — and putting them under one umbrella to better track and improve information sharing.

Hitch said Justice officials also are creating a concept to present the department as a single sharing entity to the outside world. That means officials in authorized local law enforcement communities don't have to worry about which Justice agency — whether it's the FBI or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — is providing the information.

Among future information-sharing initiatives, he said the FBI's National Crime Information Center will be on steroids, meaning it will include more detail, such as complaints, interviews and activity, in each case.

Officials also are developing a technical architecture to share information so all new and existing initiatives must pass through that prism to get funded. Hitch said that will push through the needed culture change.

The IAC panel also included Steve Cooper, the Homeland Security Department's CIO; Richard Russell, DHS' director of Information Sharing and Collaboration Program; Frank Libutti, DHS undersecretary for the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate; and Peter Verga, DOD's principal deputy assistant secretary for homeland defense.

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