Justice Department plans to expand cops' access to data

Department plans to take federated identity management program nationwide

The Justice Department plans to have a nationwide program to allow law enforcement officials from participating agencies to access data on each other’s unclassified systems, a senior department technology official said today.

Jeremy Warren, Justice’s chief technology officer, said the program would use a federated identity management approach to let officials use a single sign-on capability to access data from other participating organizations. Warren said a multiyear test for the program has been successful and the department plans to take it nationwide by the end of this year.

Warren said the program allows participating agencies to leverage the work that a home organization has done to vet people who use its systems. The program lets officials use credentials from their home agencies to access systems from other participating agencies.

He discussed the program during an event held by AFCEA's Bethesda, Md., chapter and subsequently described the plans in more detail to reporters.

“Generally, today if you are a Los Angeles Police Department detective and you’re trying to access some system at [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], at [the Justice Department], or at [the] Chicago Police, then those organizations are going to need to look you up, verify your identity, decide whether or not you’re trustworthy, give you some kind of user name and password so they recognize you next time you come back,” he said. “It’s really wasteful. It’s inconvenient for the users to have to do this: It takes a lot of time [and] wastes a lot of money.”

Warren also said the approach would bolster security because it's more secure to rely on the access determinations of someone’s home agency that are most up-to-date.

Justice has been working with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services to expand the system nationally, Warren said. The policies for the federated system are being determined by law enforcement officials from different levels of government that participate in CJIS’ Advisory Policy Board, he added. CJIS will then serve as the executive for the program and broker the technology for it.

In addition, Warren said the program would include a portal to let participating organizations advertise their systems and view those of other agencies.

Warren said participants will have to sign memorandums of understanding.

“It’s really based on trust,” he said. “The technology just allows you to make sure nobody’s cheating, that nobody’s spying, and that it’s actually valid.”


About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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