Florida taking a multipronged terror-response approach

ORLANDO, Fla.'State and local officials in Florida have woven a digital safety network to help prevent and respond to terror attacks.

"We have made it a priority to maximize the use of network and database technology to strengthen our security," said Steve Lauer, chief of domestic security for Florida's Law Enforcement Department. He spoke at the Information Processing Interagency Conference, which ends tomorrow.

The state's preparedness depends on regional domestic-security task forces, which include law enforcement officials, fire and rescue workers, health and medical representatives, and educational and business executives. The task forces coordinate purchases of equipment, collect and share intelligence, and coordinate responses to terror incidents.

The state has purchased interoperable communications systems for each of its regional task forces, becoming the first state to assure statewide radio interoperability, Lauer said. The state next plans to buy software that will let officials communicate across state, local and federal radio systems, Lauer said.

"These systems could have applications beyond Florida's borders, and we encourage states to see how we have solved the problem of getting secure information to all members of our task forces," he said.

Florida has formed a partnership with the Immigration and Naturalization Service'now part of the Homeland Security Department'through which thirty-five state and local officers are allowed to access INS databases.

The state also has created a system called the Antiterrorism Information Exchange that is intended to assure that Florida's first responders have access to the latest intelligence data.

Florida has established a secure intranet, known as Threatcom, to let first responders tap information about terror threats, alert notices, and training and equipment.

The Legislature meanwhile mandated the creation of an intelligence database and an Intelligence Analysis Section within the Florida Law Enforcement Department. The new section uses a system called Threatnet to amass data gathered by state, local and federal agencies, Lauer said.

About 150 agencies, accounting for 450 users, access Threatnet via the state's secure criminal justice network. In operation for nearly a year, the database contains close to 1,500 tips and records about 200 active cases, Lauer said.

Florida also has been working with the Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department on Matrix, the Multistate Antiterrorism Exchange System. All total, the federal government and 13 states want to use Matrix to integrate data across states and allow for data mining.

The goal is "to make the data from different systems useful and put this information on a Web-based platform," Lauer
said.

To assure the security of the state's critical systems, Florida created the Florida Infrastructure Protection Center. The center is home to a computer incident response team. The state also has established a Web site to distribute information about trends in computer crime, security tips and public cyberalerts.

With 12 deep-water seaports, the state also is looking at new technology, such as biometric devices, to help screen truck drivers who arrive at the ports to unload cargo from vessels, said Randy Ball, director of seaport security.

"We want to evolve the technology so we might have a green lane for truckers," he said, through which they could pass quickly.

State officials are aware that the technology requirements they impose on port operators and users must be implemented with an eye to the narrow profit margins that the businesses often work within, he said.

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