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« Social Network Citation Patterns | Main | Quantifying Social Networks in Africa - EPROM »

8 August 2006

Information Sharing and Institutional Impact

A very interesting piece in today’s Washington Post about information sharing in homeland security—excerpts below. I am also linking to the DHS IG report on the Homeland Security Information Network. The report and article do highlight (1) the social component to information sharing (but also the institutional impact on those social networks); and (2) the limitation of technology at this time in overcoming the key bottlenecks in necessary information sharing.

For full article click here

For report click here

In Arizona, Officials Share Data the Old-Fashioned Way
Wednesday, August 9, 2006; Page A07


On a recent drug bust in Phoenix, law enforcement officials found a vial of white powder that made them suspicious. They called Arizona's joint federal, state and local counterterrorism center, which dispatched a team to investigateThe powder turned out to be triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a highly sensitive explosive similar to the substance that failed "shoe bomber" Richard Reid was found to be carrying on a transatlantic flight in December 2001. Word of the discovery reached the FBI in Washington within 10 minutes. Although arrests and interrogations later determined there was no terrorist connection, it was just the kind of rapid information-sharing envisioned by intelligence changes implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks caught the intelligence community by surprise.

But the news did not travel through any of the sophisticated new high-speed communications systems built to facilitate rapid information flow between Washington and domestic counterterrorism's front lines. Instead, it went the old-fashioned way, with an Arizona police official walking across the hall to tell his friend in the local FBI counterterrorist task force, who then picked up the telephone and called headquarters.

According to a June report by the DHS inspector general, 2 percent of 9,500 registered users of the Homeland Security Information Network -- the department's two-way computer portal -- logged on to the system each day.
Although 360 state officials were cleared to use HSIN's separate secret portal, users averaged 27 a month.

For Beasley, who has retired from the state police and has been asked by Washington to help teach other state centers how to operate efficiently, success in Arizona began with his relationship with Churay. "When you talk about Washington and all those systems they're developing that are going to interconnect everybody in the country and everybody in the world, that's good," he said.

"But the reality is, on a day-to-day basis you have to go into those systems," he [Beasley, who designed the state center in AZ] added. "Most people, if they're operational, don't have the time. That's where that personal relationship, day to day, is absolutely critical. This business is built on trust."

Posted by David Lazer at August 8, 2006 11:40 PM