Case management and Carnivore both on life support at FBI

A problem-plagued case management system isn't the only flagship IT project the FBI is shunning. Newly unveiled reports show the bureau also has dumped its Internet surveillance tool, formerly known as Carnivore, in favor of commercial tools.

According to documents recently obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, the FBI has been using commercial software for more than a year instead of its homegrown Internet surveillance application, renamed the Digital Collection System 1000.

When the bureau originally developed Carnivore, officials said the Internet eavesdropping system was vastly superior to commercial tools. But according to a report the FBI filed in 2003 with the House Judiciary Committee, 'The FBI made no use of DCS 1000 to effect court-ordered surveillance during 2003 but rather used commercially available software.'

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the bureau originally developed DCS 1000 to help smaller Internet service providers that lacked the technical resources to comply with court-ordered surveillance while protecting privacy.

'What we have seen in the last four or five years is that vendors have seen that the FBI needs' commercial surveillance software, Bresson said. He added that the bureau had always expected to switch to commercial monitoring applications.

Meanwhile, the FBI is considering what it will do with the Virtual Case File system, which the FBI's inspector general reported would not meet the agency's case management needs.

Science Applications International Corp. has rejected criticism that it botched the $170 million VCF project, saying the company has performed well and that the FBI is partly to blame for problems. 'The FBI modernization effort involved a massive technological and cultural change agencywide,' said Duane Andrews, SAIC's chief operating officer.

The FBI may abandon the system, awarded to SAIC in 2001, due to missed deadlines, cost overruns and program snafus. The project is part of the FBI's Trilogy program to modernize systems.

'Unfortunately, implementing this change on the Trilogy contract has been difficult to do without impacts to cost and schedule. To add to that complexity, in the time that SAIC has been working on the Trilogy project, the FBI has had four different CIOs and 14 different managers. Establishing and setting system requirements in this environment has been incredibly challenging.'

No decision yet

FBI spokeswoman Megan Baroska said the bureau had not reached a final decision to scrap VCF and it would wait for the results of program evaluations before taking action.

The bureau has a plan for a new case management system, the Federal Investigative Case Management System. The IG noted that new system would not 'benefit substantially from the Virtual Case File from a technical or engineering standpoint.'

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