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Antiquated Databases Hinder Terrorism Tracking

July 11, 2002  | 

Government agency computer systems are having a hard time keeping up with the influx of terrorist-related information since Sept. 11.

Even before terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon last year, government databases were far behind the private industry's state-of-the-art technology. Now the systemsÂ? age cannot be ignored any longer. Information gathering suffers from problems with compatibility, lack of funds, and just not enough time to keep up, using the resources currently available.

In the three months before Sept. 11, the CIA forwarded an average of 300 names per month to U.S. agencies watching for terrorist activity. Now, agencies receive an average of just under 900 names per month from the CIA.

Because of the volume of names and other information being tracked, the CIA and the INS have been developing programs to improve the government's search capability and to establish consistency. But not all agencies follow the same guidelines, which can impede the sharing of information. Translating names from Arabic into English can result in various spellings, and the FBI's database, for example, cannot reconcile different spelling variations of the same name.

The Bush administration is looking to increase funding for computer hardware and software to upgrade government systems, but the money is slow in coming.

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