Southwest states share data to fight drug traffic

Glen Gillum says border states need to share info.

More than 70 percent of the cocaine and heroin destined for the United States comes across the 1,933-mile border with Mexico.

The four states along the border'Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas'have developed a data-sharing mechanism to combat illegal drug trafficking and the crime associated with it.

The team that developed the system announced in November that they plan to put the program on the Internet, secured with public-key infrastructure technology and digital certificates from Entrust Inc. of Addison, Texas.

Law enforcement officials in the four states knew they had to share data across jurisdictions, 'just like the bad guys did,' said Glen Gillum, executive director of the Southwest Border States Criminal Information Sharing Alliance.

The Southwest Border State Anti-Drug Information System began in 1992 when the four states requested support from the federal government to share law enforcement information. It received funding from the Defense Department and the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department's research and development office.

The system provides the secure exchange of criminal intelligence data, including fingerprints, felons' known addresses and phone numbers, between state and federal agency databases.
It links to the Drug Enforcement Administration's El Paso Intelligence Center in Texas and the Justice Department's Regional Information Sharing System.

But it was difficult getting all the states to buy in to the project, Gillum said. The different state and federal systems ran on VMS machines, mainframes and Unix platforms, said John Wandelt, a senior research scientist with Georgia Tech Research Institute and a project director for the system. States used a jumbled mix of security methods, including biometrics and passwords, Wandelt said.

The new Internet system will let members have a secure network, e-mail, electronic forms and sign-on, Wandelt said.

PKI helps uniquely identify users, Wandelt said. 'For example, we have more than one Mike Scott,' he said. PKI helps authenticate and differentiate one Mike Scott from the other. 'We wanted to make sure we didn't lock all the windows and leave the door wide open,' Wandelt said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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