[ISN] FBI Opens High-Tech Crisis Center

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Sat Nov 21 1998 - 12:53:09 PST

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    FBI Opens High-Tech Crisis Center 
    By Michael J. Sniffen
    Associated Press Writer
    Friday, November 20, 1998; 9:29 a.m. EST
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Entering its 91st year with new duties that extend
    around the world, the FBI today opened a high-tech, $20 million operations
    center nearly the size of a football field to allow headquarters to manage
    up to five crises at once. 
    The new Strategic Information and Operations Center -- called ``sigh-ock''
    after its initials -- has 35 separate rooms that can seat up 450 people
    total and covers 40,000 square feet on the fifth floor of FBI headquarters
    on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is 10 times bigger than its two-decade-old
    predecessor that could, with difficulty, handle two crises simultaneously. 
    Bureau officials became convinced the old SIOC was outmoded in the summer
    of 1996 when they tried to manage investigations of the Olympic bombing in
    Atlanta, the explosion of TWA 800 and the Khobar Towers truck-bombing in
    Saudi Arabia at the same time. 
    ``There weren't enough rooms or enough telephones,'' FBI Director Louis J.
    Freeh said.  ``We had people working at desks in the hallway outside and
    reading top secret material in the vending area across the hall.''
    The supersecret facility with no windows to the street, or even any
    outside walls, has a private ribbon-cutting today with former President
    George Bush as the FBI celebrates its 90th birthday. 
    Introducing the new SIOC to reporters for a one-time-only tour, Freeh said
    it was emblematic of the bureau's expanded responsibilities and
    He noted that the bureau's fastest growing component, its Counterterrorism
    Center, is arrayed in the offices around the SIOC -- as is its violent
    crime unit, which handles domestic attacks such as the Oklahoma City
    bombing or hijackings. 
    Much of the counterterrorism work now extends overseas, to Saudi Arabia
    where U.S.  soldiers have been killed in two bombings and East Africa
    where two U.S. embassies were bombed, for example. In the last five years,
    Freeh said, the FBI has nearly doubled its legal attaches working abroad
    -- to 32 cities now. Eight more are to open soon -- in Almaty, Kazakhstan;
    Ankara, Turkey; Brasilia, Brazil; Copenhagen, Denmark; Prague, Czech
    Republic; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Singapore and Seoul, Korea. 
    The computers at desks throughout the center and the 5-by-15-foot video
    screens on the walls of almost every room can display not only U.S.
    television broadcasts but also local TV channels from foreign countries.
    The bank of red-lettered digital clocks in each room can display the local
    time in five or six locations. 
    The FBI's new National Infrastructure Protection Center, tasked to prevent
    and respond to attacks on government or private computer systems that keep
    America running, will have three representatives on each of the 10-member
    watch teams that staff the center at all times. Also present around the
    clock: a representative of the National Security Agency's Cryptologic
    Security Group to provide information from the government's worldwide
    electronic eavesdropping. 
    Behind a series of blond wood doors, the complex warren of workrooms, many
    of which can be combined or divided as need requires, have light gray
    carpets, paler gray walls and dark gray metal desks with white plastic
    tops. The desks are fixed in place only in two control rooms that manage
    the flow of information to each room; elsewhere they are modular and can
    be rearranged at will over floor-mounted electric and telephone plugs. 
    Interior windows allow views into conference rooms or the SIOC's hallways. 
    Ron Wilcox, deputy chief of the SIOC, said the compartmented areas would
    allow bureau agents ``to work in one room with District of Columbia police
    on a local kidnapping while another room works on a terrorist bombing with
    top secret data.''
    Each work station can receive data from three sets of phone and computer
    links:  unclassified, secret and top secret-sensitive compartmented
    While the center will draw information from around the world, information
    will not leave without permission. The center is shielded to prevent
    outside detection of electronic emissions, so cell phones do not work
    inside it. 
    In Operations Group D and G, the largest room with capacity for 118
    people, there are printers with yard-wide rolls of paper to print out city
    maps. So the room will not be overcome with noise, the sound from video
    screens is broadcast silently from black boxes around the room to
    headphone sets available to each worker. 
    The chairs, most on wheels, have arm rests. They are blue-green cloth in
    the workrooms;  gray leather in the Executive Briefing Room, the center's
    second largest room, with three blond wood semicircles seating 36 and
    fixed theater seats at the back for 50 more. 
    Rather than increasing the burden on field agents to report to Washington,
    Wilcox said the new center should reduce such demands, because ``we will
    offer one-stop shopping for headquarters. Field agents can report to us,
    and we will be responsible for making sure everybody is alerted who should
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