FBI Unable To Properly Manage Terrorist Watch List

from the check-on-that-new-computer dept

For the better part of this decade, we've covered the massive screw-ups the FBI had in updating its computer system. This was the system that was many years late, way way way over budget and useless at tracking down terrorists. It's the same system that, when a computer scientist was asked to review the it, he claimed (no joke) that it would be a good time to go on a crime spree the day the FBI switched over.

While the FBI has since moved forward with another system, it's reasonable to question the quality of its computer systems. So, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the FBI appears to be unable to manage its terror watch list. According to a report by the Inspector General:
We found that the FBI failed to nominate many subjects in the terrorism investigations that we sampled, did not nominate many others in a timely fashion, and did not update or remove watchlist records as required.... We believe that the FBI's failure to consistently nominate subjects of international and domestic terrorism investigations to the terrorist watchlist could pose a risk to national security.
Now don't you feel safer?
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Filed Under: computers, terror watch
Companies: fbi

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  1. icon
    crystalattice (profile), 9 May 2009 @ 5:11pm


    No links but personal observations and thoughts I do have.

    Being in the military for more than a decade, and nearly half of that in the IT field, I can say that most of the government employees responsible for technology are out of their league. Something as simple as running a defrag on a computer are beyond them.

    Military-wise, most IT work is geared towards radio communications; computer-oriented work is mostly on network connectivity. Very few people are competent in regards to "big picture" IS work. Supervisors are promoted based on collateral duties and the good ol' boy network, not on actual competency.

    Leadership is ham-stringed in effective policy making because they have to spend so much time doing "military" stuff that they don't have to time to think of how to do something better. It's simply easier to continue with the status quo. Even if someone does come up with a better idea, it's a pain in the butt to implement it.

    Another big problem is that people are usually more interested in advancement than doing their jobs. They will look for non-work related things to do so it looks good on their evals; you are expected to do your job so it's not impressive, unless you do something completely stellar. Often, the least competent people are promoted because they are the ones who are out and about in the command, doing all sorts of non-work related jobs, that everyone else things they are amazing. But their actual technical abilities are almost nil.

    Finally, most of the "heavy lifting" in regards to IT comes from contractors; if it's not in the contract, it doesn't get done. Normally, they aren't paid to think about the best way to do something but to create what the government employees have designed. Unfortunately, the gov employees are the least likely to know how to effectively create the desired systems. And don't get me started on all the political shenanigans that go on behind the scenes.

    In a nutshell, these reasons (and more) are why the government can't design, build, and implement effective IT systems.

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