National criminal intelligence net slowly takes shape

Next month, a pair of law enforcement networks will link up with U.S. intelligence agency systems to share sensitive but unclassified information.

The Regional Information Sharing Systems network (riss.net) and the FBI's Law Enforcement Online (LEO) already are linked and let member agencies share law enforcement data. The Justice and Homeland Security departments have designated riss.net/LEO as the backbone for a National Criminal Intelligence Sharing system.

Come April, the pair will hook up with the Open Source Information System, which now serves about 100,000 users at federal intelligence agencies, said M. Miles Matthews, chief operating officer of riss.net at Justice.

Matthews, speaking today at FOSE 2004 in Washington, described the growing system of networks as an inelegant, lashed-together approach that depends on a relationship of trust between the participating agencies.

'This isn't the architecture of the future,' he said. 'This is not our desired end state, it is a beginning state.' The nation cannot afford to wait on a seamless consolidated network to begin making critical information available to intelligence and law enforcement personnel as well as first responders, he said.

The riss.net/LEO backbone is a group of six regional secure intranets with six hub centers. It has about 15,000 individual accounts serving 6,800 agencies in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, Australia, Canada and England.

A component of the system, the Antiterrorism Information Exchange, provides law enforcement agencies at all levels with access to homeland security information. Law enforcement agencies also can use ATIX to distribute security alerts to private-sector organizations and public officials who lack security clearances.

The extended network also provides connectivity with databases in the departments of Defense and State, and with the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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