First responders get homeland security network

Who will get homeland security alerts via ATIX

  • Chemical industry executives

  • Federal agencies without access to law enforcement systems

  • Fire departments

  • Emergency medical providers

  • Educational institutions

  • National Guard executives

  • Postal Service and public shipping organizations

  • Public and private water, power and gas utilities

  • State, county, local and tribal government executives, public health officials and emergency management authorities

  • Telecommunications organizations

  • Transportation organizations
  • ATIX links 14 states so far

  • California

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Iowa

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Michigan

  • New York

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Carolina

  • Texas

  • Utah
  • Feds will be able to send alerts to organizations by geographic location, organizational activity and user status.

    'Justice's M. Miles Matthews

    Henrik G. DeGyor

    The Justice Department and FBI are expanding their sensitive but unclassified law enforcement networks to share homeland security data across levels of government.

    When fully deployed, one network'the Antiterrorism Information Exchange (ATIX)'will provide law enforcement agencies at all levels access to homeland security information. Law enforcement agencies also can use ATIX to distribute security alerts to private-sector organizations and public officials who lack security clearances.

    The second network, the Multistate Antiterrorism Regional Information Exchange System (Matrix), will give crime analysts working on terrorism investigations a tool to quickly check a broad range of criminal records maintained by federal, state and local agencies.

    ATIX and Matrix will weave local, state and federal law enforcement data via the Regional Information Sharing System.

    The regional secure intranet, known as riss.net, relies on servers at six hub centers serving the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, Australia, Canada and England.

    ATIX users will include a broad array of public safety and infrastructure organizations, including businesses that have homeland security concerns and duties, said Richard H. Ward III, deputy director of the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance.

    The bureau's Justice Programs Office oversees riss.net, which also has a RISS Directors National Policy Group made up of the executive directors of the six regional centers.

    Justice has rolled out ATIX to users in 14 states so far and expects to extend it to 26 more over the next two months. Lack of funds prevented nationwide deployment this year, Ward said.
    'In 2004, we hope to do the rest of the states,' he said.

    The department included ATIX costs into its 2003 spending for riss.net, which runs about $25 million annually, Ward said.

    ATIX users have access to a secure e-mail via riss.net, which provides an antivirus and spam filter. The FBI and the Homeland Security Department will use the e-mail system to deliver alerts to ATIX users based on different criteria.

    ATIX planners also will develop secure Web sites to post homeland security information and create collaborative bulletin boards where participants can exchange homeland security information.

    Justice has asked each state to designate an agency responsible for providing a list of potential ATIX users. Riss.net managers will grant ATIX access levels to users on a need-to-know basis.
    Federal officials will be able to send ATIX alerts to organizations by geographic location, organizational activity and user status, said M. Miles Matthews, senior management counsel in Justice's Counterdrug Intelligence Secretariat.

    'ATIX for first responders will give you all the features of RISS besides the criminal databases,' Matthews said.

    The FBI and other federal agencies, including Homeland Security, will link to ATIX via Law Enforcement Online, the bureau's system for sensitive but unclassified law enforcement data, he said.

    Talk to each other

    LEO provides an encrypted communications service for law enforcement agencies on a virtual private network; it also supports multimedia and periodical libraries, online training and collaboration between special interest groups of law enforcement officials.

    The federal government initially funded riss.net in the early 1990s to provide a multistate law enforcement intelligence network, Ward said.

    There was concern that riss.net and LEO were competing systems in the 1990s, Ward said. The terrorist attacks on 'Sept. 11 changed a lot of things. It made us think hard about methods of getting information out to state and local governments. Also it made it clear that there was no need for two systems that don't talk to each other,' he said.

    So in September of last year, Justice and FBI teams connected LEO and riss.net. Access controls limit a user's authority to tap information on the networks.

    'ATIX and Matrix are enhancements of RISS,' Ward said. Matrix was developed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with the help of Seisint Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla.

    Matrix 'is designed to take criminal justice information and combine it with public source information so a crime analyst' can track patterns, he said. 'It broadens significantly the amount of information a crime analyst is able to obtain'and it will allow crime analysts to look into the criminal databases' of participating states.

    Depending on a participant state's access laws, Matrix lets users scan driver's license, sexual predator and criminal records.

    Previously, state and local officials could determine quickly whether an individual had a warrant outstanding by checking the FBI's National Criminal Information Center, but Matrix will let officials scan a broader range of criminal information quickly, too.

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