The Justice Department is building a massive database that allows state and local police officers to search millions of case files from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal law enforcement agencies, reports the Washington Post. The system, known as “OneDOJ,” holds 1 million case records and is projected to triple in size over the next three years. The files include investigative reports, criminal-history information, details of offenses, and the names, addresses and other information of criminal suspects or targets. Backers call the database a much-needed step toward better information-sharing with local law enforcement agencies, which have long complained about a lack of cooperation from the federal government. Civil-liberties and privacy advocates say the scale and contents of such a database raise privacy and civil rights concerns, in part because tens of thousands of local police officers could gain access to personal details about people who have not been arrested or charged with crimes.
The program is in use in pilot projects with local police in Seattle, San Diego, and a handful of other areas. About 150 separate police agencies have access. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty says the program will be expanded immediately to 15 additional regions. By tapping into the details in incident reports, interrogation summaries and other documents, investigators will dramatically improve their chances of closing cases, he said. Much information will be kept out of the system, including data about public corruption cases, classified or sensitive topics, confidential informants, administrative cases, and civil rights probes involving allegations of wrongdoing by police.