He investigates new ways to fight crime

He investigates new ways to fight crime

Mark Tanner

When Mark Tanner took a tour of FBI headquarters when he was an accounting student at East Carolina University, little did he know the role he would ultimately play at the bureau. The tour guide mentioned that the FBI was looking for lawyers and accountants, so after Tanner graduated in 1978, he applied.

The bureau had begun a hiring freeze by then; Tanner eventually took a systems job at the now-defunct Burroughs Corp.'From there he went on to work at Savings and Loan Information Management Systems Inc., which has also since closed its doors.

In 1983 the bureau followed up on his earlier application, and he began his FBI career as a special agent in Greensboro, N.C. He has held several positions in the bureau, including assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix Division. In April 1997, Tanner began his current job as the bureau's first information resources manager within the Office of the Deputy Director.

GCN associate editor Claire E. House interviewed Tanner at his Washington office.

GCN:'What is your responsibility at the FBI?

TANNER: I basically handle the day-to-day functions of deputy director Robert Bryant, who is also the chief information officer. The deputy director oversees a line of divisions: Administrative Services, Criminal Investigative, Criminal Justice Information Services, Finance, Information Resources, Laboratory, National Security and Training.

What I do is create a vision, a strategy, priorities for information technologies that affect the FBI as an enterprise. I don't do that by myself; I have a staff, and I have all the affected parties throughout the bureau weighing in. I hold the enterprise accountable to the technical standards, and I hold the Information Resources Division accountable to meeting and understanding the customers' requirements.

GCN:'How is IT changing the face of law enforcement at the bureau?

TANNER: Just to give it some perspective, in 1983, when I came to the bureau, there was no enterprisewide computer application to identify people that we had information about. We identified a person with a 3-by-5 index card that created a pointer reference to a paper file about the person, and only in that particular field office.

We've come a long way since then, but we've still got a long way to go.

GCN:'What's your current systems setup?

TANNER: Today we're doing a lot with automation, but we still have a mainframe-centric architecture. And right now we still maintain a point of reference to a paper file for case information.

Our mainframe case management system, the Automated Case Support system, has three parts. One is an index pointer reference to individuals of importance associated with our cases. The second is a case management component, which identifies the type of case, who it was assigned to and when it was opened, and it tracks the lead activity for those cases. The third holds case file documents, but only text documents produced in-house. The photographs that we take and any documents we receive from a law enforcement partner, a search or a witness are still maintained as hard copy.

GCN:'How would you like to change that?

TANNER: The bureau is awaiting funding approval from Congress for the FBI Information Sharing Initiative. ISI is key to our operational strategic plans, which create a vision for us to prevent and deter crime. To be predictive and preventive, we need to have the infrastructure to support analysis of crime information.

ISI is designed to enhance our infrastructure and move us into a secure intranet environment that would give staff members browser access to multimedia information. Ideally, all information should be collected electronically or converted to electronic form so that we can access it from all 500 FBI locations, 30 of which are international.

The goal is to get to a point where we can apply analytical tools across the enterprise of our data rather than just on a LAN.

GCN:'How are criminals taking advantage of technology?

TANNER: Criminals are making more use of technology, and you see it in every aspect of the crimes that we investigate, whether it's a fraud committed on the Internet, child pornography over the Internet or hacking.

So in February of last year, we established the National Infrastructure Protection Center, which includes 40 organizations cooperatively working to protect the nation's critical infrastructure.

GCN:'You're rolling out two major systems this month: the National Crime Information Center 2000 and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. First, talk about IAFIS.
TANNER: Through IAFIS, the FBI has digitized approximately 33 million 10-print fingerprint cards. Rather than having a fingerprint examiner classify a print and search for it against the existing digital cards on file to identify a match, the computer will do that matching. Instead of taking 30 days to turn around an identification on a submitted fingerprint card, we will be able to do it in two or 24 hours, depending on whether it's a criminal check or a civil check.

The other capability that will provide is latent fingerprint searches. Up until now you had to develop a suspect in a crime, take his or her prints and compare them with latent, or crime scene, fingerprints because the capability to process latent prints against the entire population of known fingerprints was not there. Now it is.

GCN:'Will other agencies be able to tap into the system?

TANNER: Other agencies will submit their fingerprint records to us. But rather than doing it via the U.S. mail on paper cards, as they do today, they'll be able to submit them electronically. That includes checks from law enforcement agencies and checks of people such as schoolteachers, day care providers and federal employees.

GCN:'Tell me about NCIC 2000, which went live July 11. Explain how it will improve the 30-year-old system it replaced.

TANNER: NCIC 2000 holds data about stolen property, missing persons and wanted persons. Probably the most dramatic improvement is that police officers will be able to scan suspects' index fingerprints into a device in their patrol cars, and NCIC 2000 will compare the prints with known-wanted and missing-persons fingerprints.

Officers will be able to access the system through a client application on any PC. They will be able to have cameras in patrol cars so they can take a picture of a tattoo or a weapon used in a crime and digitally transmit the photograph to the system.

GCN:'How do you keep such a system secure?

TANNER: Each state has a control agency that manages connections between the local police departments and NCIC, which is housed in West Virginia.

GCN:'What else is new?

TANNER: We have an effort under way in which the WAN supporting the Criminal Justice Information Services Division is expanding its point of presence to 120 state and local law enforcement laboratories. The client system will let the labs operate on the same network infrastructure and access systems such as the Combined DNA Index System and the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

GCN:'What's going on with your administrative systems?

TANNER: Our personnel management and financial management systems are mainframe applications. Right now, we're just working on making them Y2K-compliant. We would like to take advantage of off-the-shelf Web technologies, but we need a more robust infrastructure to do that, which ISI is designed to lay down.

GCN:'What's the status of your year 2000 work?

TANNER: It's going very well. We have 42 mission-critical systems that are all now compliant. Our Inspection Division reviews progress on each of our mission-critical and non-mission-critical systems monthly. It provides a report that goes to the CIO. We also send a quarterly report to the Justice Department. So we've made good progress.

GCN:'How has your office helped the bureau?

TANNER: Since the IRM Office was established at the deputy director's level two years ago, we're doing a better job of enterprise planning and investment management. No longer is it left to the discretion of a single division to meet and define the customers' needs.

The office provides a level of oversight at the deputy director level that creates a close relationship between the operations strategies and the IT strategies.

And given the way crime is expanding, globally and through the use of technologies, we need to be more agile in how we address crimes and the IT that we apply to investigate those crimes. In industry, the pace of change is dramatic. Our pace of change needs to be just as dramatic.

What's more

  • Age: 43
  • Family: One son, 12 years old
  • Favorite Web site: East Carolina University athletics, at www.ecupirates.com.
  • Worst job: Packing IBM Corp. teller machines in Raleigh, N.C.
  • Dream job: 'None. I try to make the most of the one I have.'
  • Motto: 'Become the most positive, enthusiastic person you know.'

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.