THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
8TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PROSECUTORS
MONDAY, AUGUST 11, 2003
Good evening. It is my privilege to have this opportunity to talk to you about a problem faced by all our countries – the spread of terrorism. As recent events have so tragically illustrated, no part of our globe is immune from terrorism. From just last week again in Indonesia, to the Middle East, to Africa, to Russia, to Europe, to the United States, terrorism threatens our security, strikes fear into our citizens, and challenges our law enforcement and legal systems as never before.
Because nations from around the world confront common problems, we also must share common solutions. I want to commend the IAP for recognizing this need and for bringing together such a distinguished group to share information about how we might – together – better confront the global problem of terrorism.
While federal law enforcement officials have ultimate authority for dealing with the threat of terrorism and terrorist events in the United States and abroad, state and local law enforcement often are first to respond to such incidents within our national borders, and also have a significant role in preventing terrorism.
Unlike some countries, as you may know, the U.S. does not have a single, national police force. Each state, and each city and county within each state, has its own police force, which does not report to the federal government. These state and local law enforcement agencies have now taken on a new responsibility, that of protecting citizens from terrorism.
In this new age, state and local law enforcement also must be more alert to the link between terrorism and other crimes, such as drug trafficking. We know that terrorists have turned to crimes such as this to finance and support their activities.
Computers also have become tools of the trade for terrorists. Law enforcement officials have found evidence that al Quaeda planned cybercrime attacks on defense system computers, banking networks, and other critical infrastructures.
The September 11 hijackers also stole the identities of innocent individuals, and fraudulently opened charge and bank accounts in their names to hide terrorist activities. This is, as you know, a common practice of terrorists, as well as other criminals, and it is a growing problem in the U.S.
The role of my agency – the Office of Justice Programs – is to help state and local criminal justice officials in the United States become more alert to links between such “traditional” crimes and terrorist activity and to help provide the training, technology, and other tools they need to address domestic terrorism.
For those of you who are not familiar with us, the Office of Justice Programs is a rather unique agency within the U.S. Department of Justice. We neither investigate nor litigate. Our mission is to work with partners – federal, state, and local agencies – to help them better prevent and respond to terrorism and other crime.
For example, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we sponsor counter terrorism training for state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors. This program provides training in the areas of pre-incident preparation, investigation, prevention, and interdiction. Over the past several years, more than 50,000 criminal justice personnel have participated in our counterterrorism training.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack on America, we have also intensified our efforts to help state and local law enforcement respond to the terrorist threat through improved intelligence sharing, communication, and technology integration. This is essential, if we are going to be successful in protecting our homeland.
At the Office of Justice Programs, we’ve been working over the past two years to develop several initiatives to facilitate information-sharing among law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.
In this high-speed, high-tech world, intelligence is key to preventing terrorism and other crime. Law enforcement officials today must have access to real-time intelligence, and be able to quickly fuse information from disparate databases. So how do we give our law enforcement officers the tools they need to be strategic, proactive, and preventive?
One example is the Regional Information Sharing System – or, as it is known by its acronym, RISS. RISS is a multi-jurisdictional criminal intelligence system operated by and for state and local law enforcement agencies. Its usefulness as the backbone for information sharing and data mining has grown to the point where it now enjoys broad participation by federal agencies, as well.
Traditionally, RISS has provided information sharing services in the form of criminal intelligence databases and an investigative lead-generating electronic bulletin board. Information is shared among the six regional RISS centers and about 7,000 participating law enforcement member agencies through a secure Internet connection.
In the post-9/11 era, RISS has assisted law enforcement by posting terrorism and homeland security information on its secure electronic bulletin board, and focusing analytical services on domestic terrorism. RISS also provided substantial security support for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, conducting database checks and facilitating information-sharing among multiple agencies and Olympic sites.
Despite these advances, we determined that the system’s scope was still too limited. So, we’ve now linked RISS and LEO – the FBI’s Law Enforcement Online system – and are coordinating the operations of these two systems. LEO has secure group e-mail capability, and thus serves as a complement to RISS.
RISS has traditionally been somewhat of a passive repository of information, capable of being searched by users, but not “pushing out” information to the field. Under this new effort, we’ll get the best of both worlds by linking the two systems. The combined system will provide a secure connection that will allow sensitive, but unclassified, homeland security information to be distributed quickly to all RISS and LEO users. It also will provide users with a secure e-mail system.
As part of the RISS expansion, we have connected a number of drug trafficking databases, and many statewide databases, to RISS. This means that a state can share its statewide intelligence database with RISS member agencies all over the country. The addition of each database has the effect of increasing, exponentially, the value of the RISS network.
Here is an example of the effectiveness of this system: shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI office in Springfield, Missouri asked its regional RISS center to check the names of suspected terrorists through all of the various databases connected to RISS across the United States. Information was found on three different suspects, in three different parts of the country, using information gleaned from three different databases.
Although the information had been entered in the databases from disparate areas of the country and from various agencies, a single search by one RISS center was able to link all this information quickly. In fact, some of the critical information in this case was gleaned from the California Bureau of Investigation database, on the very day the State of California connected with RISS. This case demonstrates the urgent need to connect all these databases to RISS at the earliest possible time.
In January, we launched a pilot project to further expand the utility of RISS in counterterrorism efforts. ATIX – the RISS Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange – is currently being tested in six states.. This new system allows state and local officials who are responsible for homeland security and disaster preparedness to communicate and exchange homeland security, disaster, and terrorism alert information in a secure environment.
What will this mean to law enforcement and terrorism prevention? Think about this hypothetical:
Several recent chemical thefts have prompted a RISS-ATIX participant from the chemical industry to post a message on the RISS-ATIX bulletin board. A law enforcement officer reads the posted message on the board.
From daily intelligence bulletins he’s receiving through the RISS network, the officer recognizes that the stolen chemical is a potential hazard for poisoning the water supply. The officer posts a reply to the message explaining the potential hazard.
Using the secure e-mail capability offered through RISS-ATIX, officials from the chemical industry alert public and private water utility executives of the potential hazards associated with the chemical, warning signs of contamination, and available treatments. Then, using the contact capability of RISS-ATIX, officials from emergency management, health, law enforcement, and other government agencies are notified of the critical information and are prepared to act immediately.
RISS serves as the communications backbone not only for ATIX, but also for another new initiative known as MATRIX – the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. MATRIX provides the capability – in real time – to store, analyze, and exchange sensitive terrorism-related and other criminal activity information among agencies within a state, among states, and between state and federal agencies.
The system will allow users secure access to criminal history, driver’s license, vehicle registration, and a host of other information, much of which is available in commercial databases, but which law enforcement does not usually have the capacity to access promptly, or merge quickly with its own information.
The MATRIX system, in a matter of seconds, can find patterns in these various databases, limiting a potentially huge field of suspects in a crime to just a few. And it can identify people whose actions fit a pattern of terrorism developed by investigators, suggesting that further investigation of their activities may be warranted. The system can also, as it identifies suspects, clear others and remove them from suspicion.
Here’s an example: a major task force in New England, investigating a series of murders, ran queries on the MATRIX factual data analysis application, which found the task force’s initial suspect in Florida and was able to rule him out immediately. Then, additional suspects with the same name were identified through further MATRIX searches, along with family members and address information. This new information resulted in warrants being served the next morning and a murder suspect being apprehended.
In another case, the task force received a lead regarding an individual who was believed to be an associate of one of the September 11th hijackers. An initial background query resulted in a real-time “link analysis.”
Those of you who know what this is know that it used to take investigators months of work to painstakingly piece together the family members, associations, former addresses, communications, and so on relating to a suspect, in order to link one suspect to another and thus to a crime, or to locate a suspect whose identity or location is unknown to investigators. This time, in seconds, the system identified an apartment leased by the wife of the target’s brother, which led investigators directly to their target. In today’s terrorist threat environment, real-time work like this is critical.
There are those who criticize data mining efforts such as these, not wanting law enforcement to have the opportunity to learn too much about the activities of individual citizens. While we know that such concerns are grounded in our Constitution’s respect for the privacy of individuals and their right to be free from unreasonable searches, it is crucial to note that all of this information is already legitimately available to law enforcement.
At a time when terrorists have made clear their desire to kill as many of our citizens and allies as possible, to resist increased efficiency in our review of evidence to which law enforcement is fully entitled is to place those American citizens and American allies in grave danger.
Our goal for all these efforts is to ensure that law enforcement officials at all levels of government are sharing intelligence, communicating with each other, and working together to stop terrorists before they strike.
This leads to a related critical issue I’d like to address this evening, and that is communications interoperability. . As you probably know, when multiple public safety agencies respond to an incident, they’re often unable to communicate effectively with each other – or sometimes even with their own agencies – because their radio equipment is incompatible.
One tragic example occurred during the September 11th terrorist attack in New York City. While police and firefighters rushed up the stairs of the burning World Trade Center buildings, incident commanders outside could hear helicopter radio reports that the towers were dangerously close to collapse. They were able to warn their police officers via radio to vacate the buildings immediately. As a result, all but 60 officers escaped with their lives.
Tragically, hundreds of New York City firefighters couldn’t hear that warning because they were using a different radio communications system. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters died in the World Trade Center terrorist attack that terrible day.
We are working hard to find solutions to this problem.
The Office of Justice Programs, through its National Institute of Justice, is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other partners to develop standards for voice, data, image, and video communications systems. These solutions will allow multiple parties to exchange information on the spot, whether it’s among fixed facilities, mobile platforms, or even personal devices.
We’re also working to develop other technologies to help law enforcement officials better – and more safely – investigate terrorism and other critical incidents. For example, we’re developing technologies to:
– detect concealed weapons;
– locate victims and suspects hidden behind walls;
– and warn responders of exposure to chemical and biological agents through a wearable detection device.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 2001, we’ve also expanded our research on terrorism. For example, in partnership with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – known as FINCEN – we’re conducting research on how terrorist organizations fund themselves.
We’re also developing ways to identify suspicious transactions so that federal, state, and local regulatory and enforcement agencies can better target and disrupt financial transfers that support terrorism.
Through these and other initiatives, the Office of Justice Programs is working to advance the global effort to combat international terrorism. And we would like to hear of advances in other nations, as well. As we learn from each others’ experiences, each of us can improve our own ability to disrupt the terrorist threat. We owe all the freedom-loving citizens of the world this duty.
At the U.S. Department of Justice, we are strongly committed to helping, in the words of United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, to “form a common defense against terrorism.” We pledge to continue working with you and all our colleagues throughout the world to defend our citizens, our nations, and our neighbors against this common enemy. Thank you very much.