Federal, state, and local intelligence and law enforcement agencies will be able to share threat reports, investigative leads, and potential evidence instantaneously under a new counter-terrorism computer system, reports the Washington Post. The Homeland Security Information Network is part of a plan to give local police chiefs, mayors, and governors greater access to federal intelligence.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced the yesterday at Washington, D.C.’s police headquarters. “In this new post-9/11 era, a new philosophy is required — a philosophy of shared responsibility, shared leadership and shared accountability,” Ridge said. “The federal government cannot micromanage the protection of America.”
The network marks a dramatic expansion of U.S. law enforcement agencies’ ability to share time-sensitive information. Ridge said that the Washington area remains more vulnerable to attack than do most major cities. “A massive public education campaign” is needed before another attack occurs, he said.
When the network’s first phase is completed this summer, it will provide a real-time instant messaging, e-mail, and live chat service for 5,000 authorized users across 300 agencies in all U.S. states, five territories and 50 urban areas. Users with security clearances and software will be able to share vast quantities of data, from audio to computer models, and from foreign news clippings to refined analyses. The system will flash information from a police officer on the street to across the country in minutes, instead of the 12 to 24 hours that can elapse before information is received now. “We’ll be able to send photos and maps, even streaming video. We’ll even be able to access data at the scene of a crime . . . through wireless laptops,” Ridge said.
During last August’s East Coast power failure, Washington officials lost telephone contact with New York City. Using the network, New York officials within minutes ruled out terrorism and permitted colleagues across the country to “stand down,” said Ed Manavian of the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, from which the network was adapted.
The network “has become the ultimate chat room for the anti-terrorism business,” said John Miller, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department’s counter-terror unit. “If you go through the autopsy of what went wrong September 11, it wasn’t that no one had the information, it was that nobody talked to their counterparts enough so that all the information ended up in one place.”