http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,52853,00.html By Farhad Manjoo 2:00 a.m. May 30, 2002 PDT The FBI -- whose recent bungles, from McVeigh to Moussaoui, have cast it in the unenviable role of national klutz -- is "reorganizing" itself, and much of the refashioning will focus on improving the bureau's antiquated computer systems. FBI director Robert Mueller on Wednesday described an organization that is "years behind where it should be in terms of having the technological infrastructure." Changing that, he said, involves "not just getting the computers on board, the hard drives; it means everybody from top to bottom becoming facile with the computer, understanding the computer and understanding how technology can assist us to do our job better." Mueller also said that the FBI would become more "connected" to the rest of government, especially the CIA, and will put more resources into "data mining, financial record analysis and communications analysis." This news of increased federal communications monitoring comes on the heels of yet another embarrassment for the FBI -- the release on Tuesday of an internal memo from March 2000 that shows that the bureau's much-maligned Carnivore surveillance system had been inadvertently used to spy on targets without proper authorization. Once an FBI tech person discovered this fault, he "was apparently so upset that he destroyed all the e-mail take, including the take on" the intended target of the surveillance, the memo states. Although that target is not named, the memo refers to the "UBL unit," the government's acronym for Osama bin Laden. The memo was obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy watchdog group, through a Freedom of Information Act request. David Sobel, an attorney at EPIC, said that news like this shows that the FBI has "not yet come to grips with the technology of packet mode data transmission -- that's the challenge for the FBI, these technologies." Mueller's major reorganization would need to take that fact into account, Sobel suggested, and if the FBI finds that "the price of obtaining useful information is the wholesale interception of hundreds of innocent e-mail messages, then I think they might have to forego the collection of that one important piece." He said that his group believed so even after Sept. 11, even while the FBI is being criticized for not having "connected the dots" before the terrorist attacks: "We're not talking about some minor statutory technicality here -- we're talking about the 4th Amendment," Sobel said. In his speech, Mueller said that the bureau is sorely lacking in computerized analytical systems -- systems to comb through the documents that the bureau has and connect some of those dots it's been accused of ignoring. Mueller said: "It would have been very nice if at some point in time I could say that you put into our computer system a request for anything relating to flight schools, for instance, and have every report in the last 10 years that had been done that mentions flight schools or flight training and the like kicked out. "We do not have that capability now. We have to have that capability. And, beyond that, we ought to have the artificial intelligence that ... doesn't require us to query it, but automatically looks at those patterns. And that's the type of technology we need to enhance our analytical capability." Upon hearing that scenario, William Knowles, an information security consultant who is familiar with governmental IT, joked that such systems are "entirely doable ... but at the FBI?" Knowles -- who runs C4I.org, a government and military security news site -- said that the FBI's pay scale didn't attract highly qualified IT professionals. "The only reason, pre-9/11, that people would join the FBI is God, country and apple pie," Knowles said. Mueller was not specific about how he would attract more tech talent and whether the government would pay more for better technical talent. But even if the agency does attract better techies, some experts wonder whether the changes are coming too late -- eight months after the attacks, a year after misplacing documents related to the Timothy McVeigh case, and after it was discovered that Robert Haansen, an FBI agent, had been wading through the FBI's computers as a spy for the Soviets. "It's going to take time," Knowles said, "and of course time is something we might not have now." Rob Rosenberger, a computer virus expert who has worked with the government and has been very critical of the FBI, said that this reorganization seems to be a tad inauthentic, a reorganization for the sake of reorganizing. "The FBI is the ultimate male driver driving on the highway who's lost, not asking for directions, not listening to anyone," Rosenberger analogized. "This is systemic of the FBI. They do not organize themselves. These are people who cannot send a message to every agent in the field and say 'Produce all evidence on the Timothy McVeigh case.' And if they can't get your physical act together, what's to say they can get their electronic act together?" - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu May 30 2002 - 04:21:52 PDT