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The FBI's Tech Problems

Noah at Defense Tech has his first article up on Slate today:

Most of you have probably heard about the FBI's technology problems: The field offices that still aren't connected to the 'Net. The 8,000 employees who don't have fbi.gov e-mail addresses. The case management database that's straight out of the leisure suit era. But what's not as widely known is why the bureau is so behind the times. The big culprit is FBI culture, it turns out. Until very recently, being computer-savvy hasn't been considered much of an asset in the FBI, and clues were something you kept to yourself.

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  • Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#1)
    by Al on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 03:33:20 PM EST
    That's cool, because I'm sure the terrorists would never think of using the interwebs to communicate either.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 04:15:19 PM EST
    I don't think it's a coincidence that the golden goose for illegal money was also one least plugged into technology.
    After Lamberth pulled the plug, an indignant Interior Secretary Gale Norton shut down all of her department's websites. For nearly four years, the 11,000 employees of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs have had no access to the Internet or external email, managing a $2.4 billion bureaucracy and overseeing 56 million acres of land without the basic tools of the modern office. ....... But to hear Interior Department spokesman Dan DuBray tell it, the bureau's employees have fared just fine on the other side of the digital divide. "A lot of activity goes on with fax and telephone calls, walking from one floor to the next, a lot of meetings -- the traditional ways people keep in touch," he explains. ............ The BIA has been stuck in this techno-logical time warp since 2001, when the federal judge overseeing Cobell v. Norton punished the bureau for failing to safeguard its Indian land trust records. Court-appointed experts had hacked into the bureau's files, concluding that "protecting trust funds is not now, and has never been, a 'priority.'" In response, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth revoked the BIA's Internet privileges until it cleaned up its act.


    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#4)
    by jimcee on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 05:03:22 PM EST
    The FBI's lack of computer literacy is not that surprising. The culture there puts the 'Bureaucracy' in the FBI and so thier culture is your typical civil service; CYA and keep your head down so you can ride into a well-funded retirement and that vaction home down south. The idea that the FBI is so computer illiterate is rather scary because I always believed they were way ahead of everyone else with thier tech savy. On the otherhand does this mean that all the hub-bub about the NSA and other Federal agencies 'spying' on innocent citizens was perhaps a bit overstated? Afterall, most of the bloggers that feel Fed spying is a threat to individual rights have better technology and are more computer savy than your average FBI guy that they fear are spying on them. Kind of Ironic.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#5)
    by teacherken on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 07:37:22 PM EST
    umm the tech people at the FBI knew this was a problem more than 2 years ago. In those days I worked for a vendor of software engineering workstations as the technical support person in the DC area. I was also an officer of the local chapter of the Data Processing Management Association. As an officer I had the ability to do a mailing to all 500+ listed members of the chapter about what we would be showing at a computer show at the DC Convention Center. At the show, one of the top computer people in the FBI showed up holding the letter in his hand, asking to see what we had. As I talked with him he explained the problems they were having trying to update and integrate their computer functions. I remember his name, which I will not use here, and remember looking him up in a government directory, and he was quite important, and yet still could do nothing to change the culture. But that was not the only place I saw problems in my days doing dp in and around dc. I will not tell all my tales, but there is one that absolutely sticks in my mind. We did a presentation at the Naval Surfac Weapons Lab in Dahlgren Virginia. We did not have clearances, so they talked with us somewhat elliptically. The people with whom we met were working on the computer controls for the Aegis Missile Cruisers. From what they told us, I was appalled and remember telling my boss as we walked out the door that it was a disaster waiting to happen. The USS Vincennes was an Aegis Missile Cruiser that a few years later shot down a scheduled Iranian civilian airliner. I cannot say for certain that the way the computer controls were designed was the problem but I often wondered.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 07:49:30 PM EST
    Well, Louis Freeh didn't like computers so he didn't put much priority on the FBI's Computers.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 08:16:45 PM EST
    Robert Hanssen made the most of the technology for how long,...20 years or so? He must have been dealing with the Russians at the same time DeLay and Abramoff were dealing with the Russians in oil/gas/energy and votes. AN FBI INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT There's just no way that so many can be so incompetent for so long.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 08:29:26 PM EST
    There's just no way that so many can be so incompetent for so long.
    Really? Have ya seen who's been runnin' the show the last 5 plus years?

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Apr 05, 2006 at 08:50:01 PM EST
    Really? Have ya seen who's been runnin' the show the last 5 plus years?
    heh,..yup. The incompetence genes that can never be 'eugenecized' from the system. It seems to run in certain families...hey!, maybe that was part of the big wedding. The unholy, eternal union of two thoroughly dysfunctional families. So, does this culture explain guys like DeVecchio? Gangland Killings: FBI Agent Indicted for Role in Mafia War I understand the prevailing culture that promoted ignorance but a few folks working for the wrong interest can ruin the work of several great professionals.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Apr 06, 2006 at 12:37:23 AM EST
    I think this more evidence of the Bush family and friends circle's influence in administrations of the past 20-30 years. Bush41, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others have had a firm hold on a piece of the CIA by either position of office or behind the scenes. The B Team for instance, has been around for a while. [quoted text deleted as overlong. Please don't reprint long articles in the comments.] It might not look like the BCR group was in control but that's only because that's the way illicit activities have to be kept. Too many groups and politicians stood to benefit from the covert activities at the heart of that group. Some were acceptable badness, as in the ends justifies the means, but sooner or later it gets out of control. FROM MEDELLIN TO MOSCOW WITH BROWN & ROOT To avoid straying off topic, I brought just a few sample references of conditions within administrations that would benefit from keeping the FBI as uninformed as possible. The timing of FISA laws, foreign policies and international covert actions involve the traffic and communications across US borders. Those 'walls' erected between criminal/intelligence and foreign/domestic were a protective barrier from our own governments' misdeeds. I believe we have highly skilled professionals in these agencies and not the bumbling incompetents that allow tragedy by ineptitude and are rewarded rather than reprimanded. They were kept uninformed and incapable on purpose. Look at the Moussaoui debacle...hard working agents were thwarted at every turn...by their own supervisors. Maybe the FBI folks knew that all telecom was tapped (for years) and not by them? Anyone notice how the higher-ups in this admin don't use email?

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Apr 06, 2006 at 12:52:59 AM EST
    The scary part is that DHS officials don't know that if you try to pick up children via the internet, that it is a bad idea.

    Re: The FBI's Tech Problems (none / 0) (#11)
    by Patrick on Fri Apr 07, 2006 at 02:59:33 PM EST
    Posted by charliedontsurf1 April 5, 2006 08:49 PM Well, Louis Freeh didn't like computers so he didn't put much priority on the FBI's Computers.
    Posted by charliedontsurf1 April 5, 2006 09:29 PM
    There's just no way that so many can be so incompetent for so long.
    Really? Have ya seen who's been runnin' the show the last 5 plus years?
    Please explain how these two comments reconcile?