Information Dragnets


This morning's opening session is a panel on the DC sniper case. The moderator is Alisoun Moore, the CIO of Montgomery County, MD. The panelists are Michael Bouchard, SAIC of the Baltimore Field Division of ATF, Thomas Didone, Capt. Montgomery County Police, and Judy Wood, CIO for Maryland's Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections. The level of collaboration that happened in this case would have been unthinkable before 9/11. Collaboration is now seen as necessary. The theme that keep coming up over and over is "whatever it takes" to solve this case.

Technology included call centers, GIS, databases, queries of other data sources, setting up over 200 PCs with high speed network links for the task force (in 24 hours), connecting people to a brand-new 800 MHz radio network (the interoperable public safety band). Importantly, these tools were ready to be deployed. There's no time to prepare once the crisis has started. What's more, you need space to deploy them in. This is something governments have to be very disciplined about since its all too easy, for politicians especially, to put off spending to prepare for a crisis that might it come.

Tom Didone makes the point that cooperation was enhanced by a joint operations center. A JOC shifts focus from territory to operations and roles. This was true at the Olympics as well. The Olympic Public Safety Command ran a huge JOC with seats and well-defined roles for everyone.

The task force collected a lot of data on credit card and cell phone usage, all honorable discharges from the military with certain training, all .223 round purchases in Maryland, all hunting license holders, all male drivers in certain age ranges, etc. This data was put into an application called CaseExplorer that served as both a data warehouse and an analysis tool. This data, combined with tips, produced over 700 leads a day that had to be investigated by officers on the street.

Judy Wood says that her organization is not part of Maryland's Homeland Security task force. When people think of first responders, they don't think of the data and IT resources that these first responders use to get the job done. This isn't surprising. In Utah we had to constantly fight to get the cops to think about the technology aspects of Homeland Security. They think of it from an intelligence standpoint, but don't foresee the use in the crisis. This is a challenge for IT providers in government because when the crisis hits, they will be called on and they may not be ready.