Wednesday, February 25, 2004

New counter-terror network announced 

Tom Ridge announced the creation of a new information-sharing system to help government agencies fight terrorism. The headline says the network was "launched," but the article says the first phase is set to be implemented this summer.

Hundreds of federal, state and local intelligence and law enforcement agencies will be able to share threat reports, investigative leads and potential evidence instantaneously under a new counter-terrorism computer system announced yesterday by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

Developed since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the Homeland Security Information Network is part of a sweeping data-sharing policy adapted by federal authorities. The network, created in response to presidential priorities, is designed to prevent acts of terror and to give local police chiefs, mayors and governors greater access to federal intelligence.
It sounds like sort of a beefed up Intelink that state and local officials can access.

One of the biggest weaknesses exposed by 9/11 was a lack of coordination between agencies, which resulted in fragmentary pieces of information being widely scattered, rather than being assembled in a central location where someone could piece them together. This network might go a long way toward connecting the dots, and quickly getting information into the hands of people who can act on it.

When the first phase is completed this summer, the network will provide a real-time instant messaging, e-mail and live chat service for 5,000 authorized users across 300 agencies in all U.S. states, five territories and 50 urban areas, Ridge said. Users with proper security clearances and software will be able to share vast quantities of data, from audio to computer models, and from foreign news clippings to refined analyses.

In effect, the system will flash information from a police officer on the street to Ridge's office to across the country in minutes, instead of the 12 to 24 hours that can elapse before information is received now.
Definitely a big step toward streamlining the distribution of terrorism intelligence. Now all we need to do is work on improving the human side of our intelligence collection. Technology can do some wonderful things, but it's not going to let you hear a word-of-mouth rumor floating around a terrorist camp.
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