Former security chiefs join call for data integration

Former security chiefs join call for data integration

'In many respects, our staying power is as important as our firepower.'

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey last month called on agencies to share databases to combat terrorism but only on a strict need-to-know basis.

Investigative databases, networks and other IT tools must be designed so that only authorized users can get access, Woolsey said at a forum sponsored by webMethods Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

'Otherwise, we are inviting into our databases and networks the kind of people who shipped anthrax to Sen. [Thomas A.] Daschle,' Woolsey said. He was referring to the Senate majority leader whose office staff was exposed to the bacteria through a letter that might also have infected two postal workers who died from anthrax exposure.

Former national security adviser Samuel R. 'Sandy' Berger said that if he were Tom Ridge, the new homeland security chief, 'the first dollar I would spend is on data integration.'

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, law enforcement officers and intelligence agencies need to share information in real time to catch terrorists, Berger said.

He said he supports President Bush's creation of a new Homeland Security Office, though he said he believes it needs more budget authority.

Some officials have proposed formally moving federal law enforcement agencies into Homeland Security, but 'reorganization takes forever,' Berger said.

Integrating data systems is difficult partly because of politics and policy, Berger said, adding that 'databases equal budgets, and there's nothing that people fight for more assiduously than budgets.'

Talk amongst yourselves

Besides turf battles, statutory restrictions also affect database sharing, Berger said. For instance, the FBI and local law enforcement agencies historically have been prohibited from sharing information with the CIA and the military intelligence community. The newly passed counterterrorism bill lifts some of those restrictions.

So far, terrorists have been carrying out their attacks by finding 'the soft seam of the system' in airports and mailrooms, said Berger, now chairman of the Washington consulting firm Stonebridge International LLC.

Even if the United States succeeds in punishing the terrorists who orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks, the country will not return to a terror-free world, Berger said. Americans will have to adjust to 'a vigilant normalcy,' much as citizens of London have coped with about 70 bombings over the past 30 years, he said.

'In many respects, our staying power is as important as our firepower,' Berger said.

As a possible security measure, Woolsey described a new technology that would continually change the IP addresses and port numbers of networked computers. He serves on the board of the startup company that developed the technology, Invicta Networks Inc. of Herndon, Va.

People clever enough to grind anthrax spore material to the right particle size for infection can find someone to get through firewalls, said Woolsey, who served as CIA director from 1993 to 1995 and now practices law in Washington.

Any national identification card program should have a sunset clause that ends some of its data-gathering features at a fixed time, Woolsey said.

Asked about new cyberspace security adviser Richard Clarke's proposal for a secure, dedicated government network [GCN, Oct. 22, Page 8], Woolsey said, 'It's all well and good,' but added, 'Not everyone in the government is guaranteed to be on our side.'

Mike Gilpin, a vice president of Giga Information Group of Cambridge, Mass., promoted building an integrated, secure reservations and departure control system with both public and private funding, 'to secure the whole travel experience.'

Such data and application integration could give officials a single view of the terrorist the same way that customer relationship management tools give corporations a single view of the customer, Gilpin said.


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