A new White House report says the U.S. government needs better information technology (IT) to counter potential terrorist attacks, such as the recent attempt to detonate an explosive device on an airplane. The report outlines a failure by the U.S. intelligence community to "identify, correlate, and fuse into a coherent story all of the discrete pieces of intelligence held by the U.S. government." Information technology within the counter-terrorism community "did not sufficiently enable the correlation of data that would have enabled analysts to highlight the relevant threat information," the report says.
The report called on the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to accelerate IT enhancements in areas such as knowledge discovery, database integration, and cross-database searches. The report also called for better technology linking biographic information with terrorism-related suspects. The DNI has attempted to address these IT issues by standardizing technology acquisition, says DNI's James Lewis.
The incident also highlights the intelligence community's culture of secrecy as opposed to information sharing, says Gartner analyst John Pescatore. The intelligence community was programmed to fight the Cold War, where secrecy was paramount, but now more openness is needed to combat terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, says security analyst Bruce Schneier. "Our intelligence organizations need to trade techniques and expertise with industry, and they need to share information among the different parts of themselves," he says.
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