FBI demonstrates Y2K readiness

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants criminals to know that the information in its massive databases - everything from warrants to mug shots and descriptions of stolen property - is going to cross the millennium dateline intact.

US Attorney General Janet Reno and John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, joined several top FBI officials at a news conference here to demonstrate the year 2000 readiness of a new $US182 million information system installed in July.

The National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) 2000 replaced the old NCIC, a system dating back to 1967. NCIC holds nearly 39 million records and is used by tens of thousands of police officers, border police and other law enforcement officials nationwide to obtain split-second information about suspects and property.

Each of the NCIC's 17 databases holds separate categories of data that a law enforcement officer might have to search accessing the information from PCs, laptops or other portable devices. The categories include criminal history inquiries, stolen guns, stolen cars and missing persons.

In addition to numerous other new features, the NCIC 2000 system also is integrated with the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, which can identify a suspect by searching a database full of fingerprint images.

FBI computer specialists and government contractors built the NCIC 2000 system with year 2000-compliant components, but the system had to be tested to ensure that it is in fact ready for the date change, said Frank Brown, a supervisory computer specialist with the FBI.

The demonstration showed that data stored in the system now, along with any modifications or additions through December 31, 1999, will be accessible after the new year, Brown said.

Reno said the US criminal justice system is ready for the year 2000. Ninety-nine per cent of the US Department of Justice's 217 mission-critical systems have now been tested and checked independently for year 2000 compliance, she said.

"There will be no interruptions in our law enforcement efforts due to computer malfunctions," Reno said.

The department is on target to bring the remaining 1 per cent of mission-critical systems into compliance by the end of the year, she added.

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