FBI looks to Java to streamline wiretap requests

To help eliminate manual entry of cumbersome data on its eavesdropping cases, agency is replacing the Microsoft Access software with a new, automated, database management system using Oracle software.


The FBI is replacing the Microsoft Access software it uses to track National Security Letter (NSL) wiretap cases with a new, automated, database management system sporting a Java Enterprise Edition application server using Oracle software.

The agency wants to eliminate manual entry of "cumbersome and error-prone" data on its eavesdropping cases. The way it stands now, the databases are not even connected to each other. Instead, an employee must manually enter every NSL lead sent to the Office of General Counsel (OGC)--a process that could take up to a dozen fields including a 15-digit alphanumeric identifier. The new system will automatically "populate" the data data fields so users will only have to enter the information once. (Note to FBI HR; better check the Government Typist Full Employment Act.)

"The OGC database was a giant technological step forward from three-by-five index cards once used to track NSLs," FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole testified in a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing. But "it is not an acceptable system given the significant increase in use of NSLs since 9/11." (PDF)

An NSL is a type of administrative subpoena that requires no probable cause or judicial oversight and comes with a gag order. So if you get one, don't tell anybody.