FBI chief details progress on upgrading computer systems

FBI Director Robert Mueller told a congressional panel on Thursday that the bureau has made significant progress updating its computer systems and that one operations center soon will connect and manage all of the bureau's computers.

Mueller told the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FBI that a wide-area network, by the end of the month would link the agency's 21,025 desktop computers spread throughout 622 locations. He said the Enterprise Operations Center will begin business this spring to manage data, network, hardware, software applications and security access.

"We are now focused on implementing a corporate-data warehousing capability that is key to FBI intelligence, investigative and information-sharing initiatives, as well as to our records-management system," Mueller said in testimony. "Agents will search multiple databases-linking thousands of data points of evidence, leads and suspects-through a single portal."

He noted that the data-collection center, dubbed the "integrated data warehouse," will link 31 FBI databases for single-portal searches and data mining. It also will allow electronic data sharing with other agencies. Mueller noted that computer-security experts monitored every step of the creation of the bureau's data warehouse and the linking of its computer systems.

"As we have upgraded Trilogy, we have made sure that at every step we cleared it with our security" team, Mueller said, when asked by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill., whether the FBI is taking every precaution to prevent hackers from accessing the FBI computer system.

Mueller said the FBI is requesting $234.4 million to protect the United States against cyberattacks and high-tech crimes. He said the three priorities of the bureau's new cyberdivision are: identifying and stopping individuals or groups conducting computer intrusions and spreading malicious code on the Internet; catching intellectual property thieves and Internet frauds; and halting online predators who exploit children.

Commenting on the cyberdivision's success, Mueller said the FBI last year identified 2,554 compromised computers, resulting in 95 convictions and $186 million in restitutions. The bureau's Innocent Images National Initiative investigations resulted in 692 arrests, 648 indictments and 646 convictions, he said.

Separately, subcommittee ranking Democrat Jose Serrano of New York pressed Mueller on his actions to ensure that the agency is balancing civil liberties with the bureau's increased efforts in counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Mueller pointed to the numerous laws that check the agency's power and assured him that through training, outreach with Arab communities and other measures, the FBI is ensuring that its 25,000 agents respect individuals' civil liberties.

"I believe that [the Justice Department] and FBI are very concerned about civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution," Mueller said.

Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf, R-Va., suggested that the FBI do more to educate the public on the bureau's efforts to protect civil liberties.