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At this point in the record, I wish to include a detailed explanation of "message switching" and its ramifications that I have had prepared by the Library of Congress and I would offer it for the record.

Mr. PREYER. Without objection, the explanation will be included in the record as exhibit No. 1.

[Exhibit No. 1 follows:]



[Prepared for the use of Members of Congress by Louise G. Becker, Analyst in Information Science, Science Policy Research Division, Congressional Research Service.]

Recent technological advances have permitted the development of extensive telecommunication networks in the criminal justice community. The rapid access to automated records and the exchange of information serves an important function in a complex and mobile society. The growth in data handling activities and the requirement for rapid information exchanges among criminal justice agencies have raised certain grave concerns.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has recently been granted approval to transmit automatically messages among National Crime Information Center (NCIC) users. This will enhance the NCIC telecommunications network, ensuring more effective communication among its users and an expansion of network facilities for some areas. This paper examines some of the problems and issues related to message switching and reviews potential areas of Congressional concern.


The need to access information data bases and effectively transmit information is a critical element in the functioning of a modern criminal justice agency. Computers and communication networks provide law enforcement agencies with the means to monitor criminals and their crimes, and the further ability to administer agency resources.

In the last decade the lowering costs of automated record handling have been one factor in encouraging the development of a wide range of criminal justice data bases. These data files may contain information on stolen property, wanted persons, missing persons, criminal arrests records, etc. In addition, the technology permits access to records on vehicles and licensing files needed in law enforcement operations. The need to rapidly access these files coupled with administrative and operational requirements of the criminal justice agencies have created a priority requirement to improve telecoinmunications. Federal, State, and local criminal justice elements have determined in recent years, that there is a need to create appropriate data bases and communications links. At the present time, the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) and the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC) network function separately in serving as national networks for law enforcement agencies at all levels. (a) National Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (NLETS)

To permit effective communications among criminal justice agencies NLETS provides telecommunication links for the States and local users. Although a private corporation, NLETS membership consists of State representatives and includes associate members from Federal and other organizations. NLETS does not maintain or operate data bases but only provides telecommunication links to data maintained by the States. For example, specific vehicle information may be available from the State Motor Vehicle Bureau. NLETS, in cooperation with the States telecommunication systems, allows access by any one of its users in other areas of the country. NLETS provides the capability to route messages (message switch) among network users. The advantage to this type of message transfers is that more than one user may be designated as the recipient of a type or class of message.

(0) FBI-National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

Since 1967 the Federal Bureau of Investigation has operated the NCIC network which provides access to selected data bases. NCIC contains data on wanted persons, stolen and lost property (motor vehicles, boats, securities, etc.), missing persons, as well as the controversial computerized criminal history (CCH) files. The National Crime Information Center, which serves Federal, State, and local criminal justice agencies, permits direct access to only NCIC files. (See Figures 1 and 2 for a map of network and content of NCIC files.)

The FBI, wbile serving as a repository for this critical information, does not generate all of the data. The data and records are input by the "originating agency", which in many instances is the State or local law enforcement agency. NCIC, while providing certain system standards and guidelines, relies on appropriate input from the users. Reliable access to and transmission of data are essential requirements of the NCIC network. To improve and expand the operation of NCIC the FBI has identified the need to route messages among users so that it will permit effective and rapid transmission of the information.

II. MESSAGE SWITCHING The controversy surrounding message switching stems from some basic concerns regarding the transmission of data that may impact on the personal lives of individuals. The control and monitoring of criminal justice networks and data bases bave become important factors in a democracy.

Message switching, basically, permits the transmission and routing of information in a telecommunication network without manual interference. In a computerized network, which has message switching, it is possible to forward information, using prescribed conventions, to one or more terminals on the network. For example, an “all points bulletin (APB)" may be sent to reach all terminal points or a message may be limited to a designated terminal or groups of terminals on that same network. In brief, message switching expedites communication within a network or telecommunication system. Not only does it allow specific records or files to be transmitted but it provides the means for essential administrative and operational messages to be routed. (a) FBI message switching plans

In the mid 1970s the FBI requested approval for developing a limited message switching capability. The proposal for NCIO limited message switching implementation plan, released in April 1975 by the U.S. Department of Justice, outlined the restrictions and limitations of this capability. The FBI had arrived at an agreement with National Law Enforcement Telecommunication Systems that this limited message switching would not "supplant" NLETS. In the implementation plan the NCIC noted its support for NLETS handling of non-NCIC related criminal justice telecommunication traffic.

Even this limited message switching capability would make the NCIC more responsive to user needs. The implementation of a message switching capability, as noted in the FBI plan, "would allow NCIC users to take advantage of the NCIC telecommunications network to transmit and receive messages to and from other NCIC users." The revised implementation plan for NCIC message switching specifically outlines types of messages to be transmitted. (See appendix A).

On May 19, 1977 the Deputy Attorney General, Peter F. Flaherty, in a memo to the FBI Director, Clarence M. Kelley, approved the FBI limited message switching. The applications involving the NCIC network that have been approved include the following: (1) switching messages relating to NCIC files unrelated to CCH (computerized criminal histories) file, and (2) switching messages at the request of NLETS to and from remote localities, such as Puerto Rico.

This authorization should allow the transmission of messages between the United States and the Canadian Police Information Center in Ottawa, Canada. In addition, selected elements within the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have expressed interest in accessing NLETS for law enforcement purposes. The May 19, 1977 approval will assist in facilitating these exchanges, and it will be limited to non-CCH files for the present. (b) Technical Limitations

While the authorization of limited message switching within the NCIC network is an essential step there may be an additional and implied requirement to

improve the system technically. Although it is possible for the NCIC system configuration to accomplish limited message switching at this time future requirements may place the system in difficulty and then it may be essential to augment the present system capacity with additional telecommunications equipment.

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While some aspects of the total impact of FBI limited message switching are not fully understood at present, it is reasonable to assume that expanding the criminal justice telecommunications capability will require additional Congressional oversight. The recent approval of message switching for the NCIC network calls attention to several broad issues that require some consideration. (a) Privacy and civil liberties

There are certain dangers inherent in the use of uncontrolled technologies by the criminal justice community. Unwarranted surveillance and data collection by law enforcement groups has made Congress aware of the potential that these activities have infringing on personal privacy and creating an atmosphere in conflict with the precepts of a free society. (See Appendix B Privacy : Implications of Information Technology.)

Congress has expressed, both through legislation and selected oversight actions, a desire to bring law enforcement activities in line with our traditions and beliefs. Over the years Congress has debated the critical issues of privacy and the legitimate needs of the law enforcement community. Balancing the needs of the individual and society for the protection of privacy while permitting appropriate criminal justice activities to continue has been a matter of critical con


(b) Shared responsibility for law enforcement

Providing the FBI with the potential to control and monitor messages within the criminal justice community raises the spectra, rral or apparent, of a Federal agency possibly gaining control over the lives of individuals and perhaps increasing the dependence of State government law enforcement on the Federal.

Even the present limited message switching across the criminal justice network may provide an additional danger in that it gives the Federal Government greater advantages in the traditionally shared law enforcement responsibility. (c) Controlling international data exchanges

The message switching capability as outlined in the Department of Justice memo (Flaherty to Kelley, May 19, 1977) would allow the flow of criminal justice information across an international border, thus providing an important precedent that could shape future policy in this area. It is not clear at this time whether the data transfers to Canada would be strictly limited to NCIC information or if they would include other criminal justice intelligence.

Some of the dangers of the trans-border fow of data of this kind include difficulty of controlling access as well as maintaining security in such a system. There is the added danger that the utilization of the information by a foreign power may not always be in keeping with our policies. There are also some inherent dangers in developing additional resources for monitoring other data in the network. (d) Management of telecommunication resources

Congressional concern with the effective management of computers/communication networks is also impacted by the recent approval and requirement of limited message switching. The need to develop a comprehensive telecommunication plan for the Federal and related criminal justice community may be essential to future implementation direction. The Department of Justice has recently requested approval to purchase equipment to implement the JUST system, a telecommunication network serving other criminal justice elements. This system, future augmentation of NCIC and NLETS, as well as other law enforcement related systems such as Department of Treasury TECS systems will require some cooperative and coordinated efforts on the part of those in the Federal and State criminal justice community.

The strengthening of computer and telecommunication resources management is generally recognized as being critical. In addition, the active participation of responsible law enforcement agencies in some of the decisions might be considered.

(e) Congressional considerations

The complexity of the problems and the difficulties associated with managing responsibility for criminal justice information and communication requirements requires additional examination :

What coordinative efforts and management controls are needed to ensure adequate resources management for telecommunications in the criminal justice community?

What controls and oversight are needed to ensure good management and appropriate operation of criminal justice telecommunication system?

Are there significant safeguards and guidelines in the present criminal justice computer/communication system to fully protect the validity, reliability, and security of the information? Do these safeguards protect the individual from unwarranted and nonessential surveillance?

What controls can be placed on data transmitted internationally that will protect individual rights and ensure adequate protection of the files?

What means will insure comprehensive and continued oversight of critical computer/communication networks?

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Figure 1

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