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Reno sees high-tech policing
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Reno sees high-tech policing
Posted at 11:30 p.m. PST Sunday, January 9, 2000
BY GREG MILLER
Los Angeles Times
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is expected to propose the creation of a national computer crime-fighting network designed to
enable swift cooperation among law-enforcement agencies on crimes that often cross multiple jurisdictions and unfold in a
matter of minutes, according to officials familiar with a speech Reno is scheduled to make today at a conference in Palo Alto.
The network is part of a series of initiatives Reno is expected to outline to help law-enforcement agencies across the country as
they struggle to keep up with technology's expanding role as a tool of crime.
In particular, Reno's initiatives would overhaul the way law-enforcement agencies at every level work together to investigate
crimes involving computers. The proposals include the establishment of a new nationwide computer system for sharing
investigative information and the creation of new forensic computer labs around the country that would combine personnel from
federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.
Reno is not expected to provide much information on how such measures might be financed when she unveils them today before
members of the National Association of Attorneys General. The group is convening in Silicon Valley to discuss the impact of
the Internet and technology on law enforcement.
Reno's proposals come in the wake of a series of computer-related initiatives the White House has announced in recent months.
Last week, for example, President Clinton proposed allocating $91 million to develop new programs to protect the nation's
computer networks from intrusion by hackers. Part of that funding would go toward the creation of a ``Federal Cyber Service,''
analogous to the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, that would enlist college computer-science students to help the government
fend off computer attacks.
The centerpiece of Reno's plan calls for the creation of a network of specially trained computer-crime coordinators at
law-enforcement agencies around the country.
Designated coordinators would be available at a moment's notice and would be experts in the nuances of computer-related
investigations. As an example, officials said such coordinators would be equipped to move quickly in serving court orders to
obtain account information or request traces on calls or data transmissions from local telecommunications companies and
Internet service providers.
That sort of coordination is increasingly commonplace in large metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, where the police
department and other local agencies operate special high-tech crime units. But federal officials say smaller cities and agencies are
far less likely to be equipped to assist in a computer investigation on short notice, and often refer such requests for help to
The second prong of Reno's proposal is expected to call for the creation of a secure national computer system in which
law-enforcement agencies can both supply and access information on ongoing investigations of crimes ranging from hacking
attacks to drug trafficking.
The federal government has already created a network called the National Crime Information Center, which allows state and local
authorities to tap federal crime databases. But that network does not allow those authorities to contribute information.
The third major proposal expected from Reno involves the creation of jointly operated forensic computer crime labs around the
country. Such labs are staffed by computer experts trained in analyzing hard drives and other computer systems for digital
evidence that is increasingly crucial in prosecuting white-collar crimes.
The FBI already operates such labs in most major metropolitan areas around the country. But officials said those labs are
overwhelmed by existing caseloads, and few state and local agencies have comparable facilities.