Justice advances identity tools, information sharing

Next version of NIEM to expand standard definitions

Law enforcement agencies are likely to see improved methods for sharing information and managing identity if new technology advances being shepherded by the Justice Department live up to expectations.

The release of Version 2.0 of the National Information Exchange Model is 'imminent ' due out in a matter of weeks,' Jeremy Warren, DOJ chief technology officer, said last week at an AFCEA conference on law enforcement technology in Bethesda, Md.

NIEM 2.0 will include a justice domain, which will be called the Global Justice Extensible Markup Language data model.

NIEM is the XML schema and data dictionary overseen by the Homeland Security and Justice departments and the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, which provides a common language for federal, state and local law enforcement and emergency management groups to share information.

The new version standardizes the definitions of a wider circle of common terms and content used by public agencies. In addition to law enforcement terminology, the schema attempts to standardize descriptions of terms shared by intelligence, international trade, immigration, justice, infrastructure protection and information assurance groups and make it easier to exchange data among federal, state and local entities.

'Some content from all of those domains will be included in NIEM,' Warren said. 'We've done a better job of harmonizing different terminologies and finding overlapping content and pulling them into the core.'

DOJ and DHS are the only agencies to formally standardize on NIEM. The Information Sharing Environment Program Management Office also is considering NIEM for intelligence information sharing with its partners.

'NIEM is not just for law enforcement agencies,' he said. 'The model is growing to become a federated architecture where you identify core data elements, and NIEM will help us communally govern and use the standards.'

Warren highlighted two other DOJ-led technology initiatives during the conference: one a pilot program designed to streamline federated identity management, and another that advances Justice's LEXS litigation information exchange.

Currently, the process for managing employee access to information systems involves three steps: vetting, to verify a worker's identity; permissioning, to define what information that person can access; and credentialing, to confirm that a person is who he says he is when logging on to a system.

DOJ is piloting an alternative approach built around the concept of provisioning. An employee's identity would be vetted ' and credentialing approved ' once a year, Warren said. It would rely on applications to automate the process of controlling employee access to various registered government systems, based on trust agreements with participating organizations.

The Information Sharing Environment Program Executive Office is funding the pilot, and DHS, DOJ, and state and local law enforcement agencies will test it. Warren said the system is expected to make more information available to more users, offer single sign-on capability and an enhanced user experience, and provide better audit capabilities.

Separately, Roger Campbell, who works with the FBI's Criminal Justice Integrated Systems, said the bureau will expand fingerprint data sharing internationally. The FBI soon will set up a File Transfer Protocol tunnel connecting CJIS to as many as three European nations.

'The participating nations will send fingerprints through the tunnel to CJIS, and we will run them through [the] Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System,' he said. 'We will check them and return the results. We will not store the data.'

Campbell would not discuss which countries would participate, but he expects many more to join.

Mobile testing

Additionally, he said, the agency will expand mobile access to its Law Enforcement Online (LEO) system by testing about 100 BlackBerrys.

The pilot started with CJIS personnel last Thursday and will run for about six months, Campbell added.

'If we are successful, all agents could have them in their hands,' Campbell said. 'Right now, agents can access LEO only through their laptops or desktops. If they are out in the field, they have to call in for information. We are trying to end that issue by using wireless devices to access LEO.'

LEO is growing, with 1,200 new members each month, Campbell said.

Justice has added new functions, including instant messaging, secure e-mail and a text messaging alerting system.

Jason Miller is the news editor of Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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