FBI to automate wiretap database

The FBI is working to build an automated system to track its National Security Letter wiretap cases in a bid to eliminate cumbersome and error-prone manual entry of data about the eavesdropping projects. The bureau currently relies on Microsoft Access software to track wiretap requests in the Office of General Counsel (OGC) database.

FBI deputy director John Pistole told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this year that although 'the OGC database was a giant technological step forward from three-by-five index cards once used to track NSLs, it is not an acceptable system given the significant increase in use of NSLs since 9/11.'

The new NSL database management system will use a Java Enterprise Edition application server from Red Hat subsidiary JBoss using Oracle software and is due to roll out Dec. 31.

Pistole pointed to flaws in the bureau's current wiretapping database including:

  • Its lack of a connection to the bureau's central Automated Case Support System.
  • The lack of self-checking features to monitor workflow processes and improve data quality.
  • The need for OGC system users to manually enter nearly a dozen fields in the system, including a 15-digit case file identifier.

The FBI has been building a new workflow tool during the past year that is designed to provide important controls, Pistole said.
Those controls include:

  • Verification that administrative and legal approvals have been obtained at appropriate stages in the process.
  • A feature that will help eliminate double-counting of NSL requests.
  • Automated populating of data fields so users will have to enter data only once.
  • Improved accuracy of data reported to Congress.


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