Justice wants criminal intell systems to include terrorism info

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28 CFR Part 23

The Justice Department wants state criminal intelligence data systems to specifically include more intelligence about terrorism.

According to a proposed rule, state and local organizations should gather and include terrorism-related information in their federally funded criminal intelligence data systems.

The rule also would extend the length of time that the systems contain information without review from five to ten years. Justice said the change is necessary because new data analysis technologies might reveal useful intelligence from the data later.

Criminal intelligence systems store and share investigative data about individuals or organizations that authorities reasonably suspect participate in criminal activity. The systems are different from the criminal record databases that law enforcement authorities also maintain.

The operational regulations for criminal intelligence systems that receive federal funding were last amended in 1993. They include federal guidelines for how state and local law enforcement entities gather, store and share criminal intelligence data.

The proposed amendments would define terrorism and its material support as criminal activities about which state and local law enforcement should gather and maintain intelligence. In addition, they would establish standards for how information can be used for prevention purposes, something that the regulations do not currently mention.

Since the 2001 attacks, the federal government has been involved in several initiatives to bolster the sharing of terrorism-related information among all levels of government, the private sector and foreign allies. For example, Justice’s proposed rule mentions state and local intelligence fusion centers and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force’s initiatives. The government has also established the Information Sharing Environment to improve sharing of terrorism-related data.

The intent of the amendments is to ensure that standards for sharing criminal intelligence are uniform, clear and do not “create unreasonable impediments to information sharing” and preserve constitutional rights, the proposed rule which was published July 31 in the Federal Register reads.

However, Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent, said the proposed changes codify what he said has been an ongoing federal effort to task local and state law enforcement officers with intelligence gathering for the federal government. German has been a critic of the government’s ongoing effort to standardize how state and local law enforcement authorities document and share reports on activity that is deemed to be suspicious.

“Clearly the effort is to collect more information about people’s noncriminal behaviors,” he said. “Terrorism is a crime — if we focus on the criminal aspects of it, there would be no need to change the law.”

Justice is accepting public comment on the proposed rule changes until Sept. 2.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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