IG to FBI: Make room for Scion

The FBI must provide more specialized space where teams can access top-secret information through a new online network, the Justice Department’s IG said.

The FBI must provide more specialized space where intelligence teams can access top-secret information through a new online network, the Justice Department’s inspector general recommended in a declassified report released this week.

The bureau’s field offices must build more Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities, or SCIFs, in which FBI personnel and their partners from other agencies can access and work with classified information, inspector general Glenn Fine wrote in the report.

The offices need the space so more people can access the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Operational Network, or Scion, which lets FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies share top-secret information, the report states.

Most field offices have two workstations that connect to FBI headquarters, the report states. “These workstations are inadequate and difficult to use, and they are located in small [SCIFs] that are not in the agent or analyst work areas,” Fine wrote.

The lack of secure space is impeding Scion's expansion to other field offices, the report states. More than 1,000 people at the FBI’s Washington, D.C., headquarters use Scion and a pilot online network in place at the bureau's New York, Boston and Kansas City, Mo., field offices, it states.

The FBI is including large SCIFs in its new facilities, the report states. Of the bureau’s existing facilities, New York is one of 10 field offices with the biggest need for additional SCIF space, according to the report.

The FBI agreed with the IG’s recommendations and is acting to implement them, the report says. But any expansion of SCIFs depends on the FBI getting adequate funding, it stated.

All field offices are expected to eventually get access to Scion as money becomes available, the report states. Field offices not yet connected to Scion can access the FBI’s existing system, the Intelligence Information System Network, according to the report.

Created in September 2001, Scion has helped the FBI’s intelligence, counterintelligence and counterterrorism divisions work more effectively and efficiently, the report reads. The project has been on time and on budget, it states.

The IG’s office completed the full, classified version of the report in November 2004. The office released a redacted, unclassified version June 8.

The public version of the report came out as the FBI finds itself in a maelstrom of controversy about modernizing its IT infrastructure.

Congress has excoriated the agency for mishandling the $170 million Virtual Case File program, which the FBI scrapped in March. Lawmakers are keeping a close eye on the FBI's plans for Sentinel, Virtual Case File's proposed replacement.

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