From the tragic events of 9/11 came the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act, the findings of the 9/11 Commission in 2004, and the Presidential memoranda in 2005 and 2007 to better share information.
ComputerWorld Magazine, 26 May 2008, reports that “nearly seven years after 9/11, information-sharing problems that hobble law enforcement are just beginning to be solved.”
What is the information sharing problem in law enforcement?
There are “20 federal agencies and 20,000 state, county, local, and tribal enforcement organizations nationwide.” The problem is how do you get this multitude of varied law enforcement organizations to share information to identify the bad guys?
While 75% of police agencies use automated systems to manage incident report data, only 25% of those systems are capable of sharing that information.
What’s being done to fix the problem?
First (not mentioned by ComputerWorld), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is establishing common terrorism information sharing standards (CTISS) to drive and enable information sharing among Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Military, and Diplomatic information domains.
Additionally, the Department of Justice is developing a data dictionary/schema to establish a “common vocabulary and structure for the exchange of data.” First, this took the form of the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) in 2003, and later took form in the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) in 2005 that extended the effort from “law enforcement to other areas of justice, public safety, intelligence, homeland security, and emergency and disaster management.” (Note: Defense and the Intelligence Community have a comparable data standard initiative called U-CORE.)
This past March, DOJ and the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) division “began rolling out the National Data Exchange Initiative (N-DEx), a NIEM complaint database and data sharing network.” N-DEx provides “federated search capability across incident reports residing in state and local record management systems nationwide while allowing those records to be updated and maintained by their local owners.”
The goal is to have “the majority of the country participating” by 2009. The biggest obstacle is that many agencies’ systems have been so customized that integration is now challenging and expensive.
According to the FBI’s website, NDEx will be accessible via the internet and “includes several basic but vital capabilities, including searching and correlating incident/case report information and arrest data to help resolve entities (determining a person’s true identity despite different aliases, addresses, etc.). N-DEx will also create link analysis charts to assist in criminal investigations and identify potential terrorist activity.”
According to the NDEx brochure (available online at the FBI website), law enforcement agencies who participate in NDEX will:
- “Sign an operational Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
- Identify and map incident/case data to the N-DEx Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD)
- Obtain network connectivity through an existing CJIS Wide-Area Network (WAN) or connect over the Law Enforcement Online (LEO). “
The architecture concept here is summed up nicely by Linda Rosenberg, Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Criminal Justice: “Now you don’t have to go back and build these data warehouses and totally redo your entire infrastructure.”
Instead, you plug in to the NDEx and share information that’s been mapped to the common data standards. NDEx provides the target infrastructure, while NIEM provides the data exchange standards. Together, we can share information for better achieving our law enforcement mission—protecting the American people.