FBI Speeding Access to Files

WASHINGTON (06/21/2000) - As the size of government shrinks, the only way to make it more efficient is to speed up workers' access to information.

That's the goal of a four-year-old U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation project that will give agents rapid Web access to a broad range of files - voice, text, video, photographs and even the binary makeup of electronic communications.

The technology of the bureau's Information Management Project could be applied to other government functions as well, said David Smith, a senior software engineer working under contract at the FBI's Office of the Chief Scientist.

Smith, who works at HPTi Inc., Arlington, Virginia, said the system will enable agents to search through databases for information and evidence related to investigations, regardless of file format.

It will also enable agents to bypass having to look up documents that reference or describe the files they want. Instead, they'll be able to access the files directly, Smith said.

The system would even allow for "fuzzy" searches, bringing up references to search terms that may be spelled differently. For example, Smith said, a fuzzy search for "Smith" also would bring up results including the variation "Smyth" and even a misspelling such as "Smiht."

Smith would not say when the FBI hopes to complete development of the system, which is being tested at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The tests simulate the demand on a server of thousands of end users using Web browsers to request documents. The bureau would like to see a response time of less than two minutes even under maximum use. The typical response time would be about 15 seconds, Smith said.

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