Zalmai Azmi the FBI's Chief Information Officer Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Zalmai Azmi, the FBI's chief information officer for the last year realized the need for change, even if it would garner political heat, and decided to implement changes to the organization known as the FBI. The change was related to the growing innovation behind technology and the September 11th attacks. The FBI's technological upgrade has been seen by some as lacking efficacy and reliability. Software dilemmas appear to be piling up. The FBI effectively abandoned its custom-built Internet surveillance technology, code name, Carnivore. This software was designed to read e-mails and other online communications in relation to suspected criminals, terrorists and spies, according to bureau oversight reports submitted to Congress.

To remedy the failure of the software, the FBI decided to switch gears and use an unspecified commercial software to eavesdrop on computer traffic where they would pay ISPs to monitor and wiretap their customers, the customers the FBI believes are criminals. As 2002 and 2003 rolled to a close, a toals of thirteen wiretaps were performed without the use of Carnivore which was later renamed: the DCS-1000. Ironically the FBI once said Carnivore outperformed commercial software when in reality, the use of commercial software put Carnivore out of use. From 1998-2000, Carnivore was only used twenty five times.

Each time the FBI makes a mistake with their software inventions, the amount used to pay for it became disclosed. Experts outside of the field suggested the amount per failed experiment was $6-$15 million. Acts like the U.S. Freedom of Information Act allowed groups like the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group, to obtain information on the flunked sofware since it was first known in 2000. Bresson, the director of the FBI defended the FBI's decision to use commercial software to wiretap by stating the need for the government to reduce spending and the commercial software becoming unnoticeable by its subscribers.

The backlash from the public from the new information prompted the FBI to revisit a once hoped for solution to data collection and criminal case management, and resurrect the $'170 million dollar baby. Some experts sympathized with the FBI's inability to match the technological growth of the private sector stating the FBI's at first assumed the private sector technology was subpar. Realizing the technology expanded and evolved beyond its scope is what made the descend all the more difficult said Henry H. Perritt Jr., who led an oversight study of Carnivore in 2000.

One of the reasons the FBI was so disinterested in the technolgy the private sector had intially was the possiblity of having their staff not fufill their orders effectively because of lack of communication through some glitch in the system due to faulty private sector sofware. Donald Kerr, who later became CIA's chief gadget-maker said with enthusiasm that Carnivore was ar better than any private sector software. Ironically private sector software took Carnivore's place. So underestimation of private sector software and overestimation of Carnivore's abilities led to the decline of the overall use of FBI generated software.

FBI Virtual Case File = Total Disaster



Due to the attacks of 9/11, the 9/11 commission felt the need to modernize the FBI information network. The modernization failed due to the need for workers to sign, write, and scan by hand the documents into the system daily. Director Robert Mueller of the FBI himself declared the inefficacy of the system upgrade implementation.Another major contributor to the dissatisfaction was the delay in deploying the system to 100%. Only 10% was used y 2004, a far cry from the initial promise of progress. Along with lack of full deployment, lay the hundred of millions of dollars spent on implementing the upgrade (or lack there of).

People like Mueller expressed the country's need for an upgraded system in comparison to the CIA and the NSA, but saw the inherent futility in the flawed system. A major flaw in the FBI's Trilogy technology upgrade program was its utter lack of security and efficacy. A system needs to be secure for it to possess the ability to allow users to share terrorist related information. The program or Virtual Case File system not only was the lackluster centerpiece of the installment, but also cost a whopping $170 million. After the 9/11 attacks, information sharing became priority. Because of the FBI's IT systems outdated nature, people declared a need for improvement leading to a rush to modernize the netowork and create the flawed Virtual Case File.

Background on the building of the Virtual Case File show the agency commision a government contractor, Science Applications International Corp., to build Virtual Case File. They also hired Aerospace Corp. To advise on tweeking and fixing any problems the project may have and if it could be salvaged. The major issues surrounding the beginning stages of the project was the step implementation process. They used "less-risky, incremental, phased-in" deployment rather than all at once. The FBI also had too many managers on the project, which started in 2001 allowing for control of the program to dilute between to much staff. The lac of focus and communication between the large number of managers allowed for the project to lack proper setting of system requirements.

Another reason why they say the Virtual Case File system became so flawed is because the FBI and its contractors could not keep up with the speed of new technology. Trilogy began at a point where certain technologies later on didn't exist. Aerospace Corp, the company sent to advise about the project, determine whether or not to shelf the project or bring in other software that would make the job of information sharing easier for the FBI. Congress, determined to update the FBI's system, allowed for the allocation of billions of dollars in additional funding. The upgrade cost them as of late $581 million. The software problems are expected to begin debates whether or not the FBI is using the additional funding responsibly or not. In order to determine whether the project could be salvaged, they began a series of independent studies knowing it would be a waste and cost more money if they went with new software.

3. Description of the use of existing information systems

"It was late 2003, and a contractor, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), had spent months writing 730,000 lines of computer code for the Virtual Case File (VCF), a networked system for tracking criminal cases that was designed to replace the bureau's antiquated paper files and, finally, shove J. Edgar Hoover's FBI into the 21st century. "(Eggen, D. And Witte, G. 2006) The FBI in the past admitted the Virtual Case File technology was a complete loss because it had failed to meet the bureau's requirements. They confessed the time and money put into the project was wasted.. SAIC and Mueller shared the blame. The reason for the loss, in regards to the inefficacy of the project, was in part due to the tremendous pressure placed upon the FBI after the attacks made on September 11, 2001. "This was both SAIC and the FBI all going to the sounds of the gun with our heads down on a very ambitious, high risk, highly concurrent project,"(Frieden, T. 2005) SAIC Executive Vice President Arnold Punaro told reporters.

In order to see if the VCF had anything that could be of use or be salvaged, the FBI established a short-term project in its New Orleans office. To continue performing their duties, the FBI chose to explore and possibly buy commercially available software or private sector software. A couple of the reasons for the problems began with the change in the FBI's prime mission from criminal investigations to preventing terrorism, inadequate management choices early in the project, and poor oversight for the budget. The FBI's poor performance in commuication regarding counterterrorism and data sharing and analyzing in general led to the many tecnological shortcomings viewed by the country.

Mueller's testimony showed the frustration the bureau had with itself and the documented waste of taxpayer money. The Fbi did attempt to alleviate the situation by stating their efforts in sharing information with the Investigative Data Warehouse program. The program provides "agents, intelligence analysts, and members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces with access to 47 sources of counterterrorism data, including information from FBI files, other government agencies and open-source news feeds."(Frieden, T. 2005) Although the program made some progress in the FBI's need to share data effectively, the inspector general states it was not enough to fufill full capability. The reasons behind this are the program's inability to manage case workflow and it being a poor substitute for effective case management.

The program deals and sorts through information by assigning priority: "Counterterrorism information collected by agents gets top priority and is entered into the warehouse system within 24 hours. Information dealing with such matters as violent crime, organized crime, fraud and other white-collar crime may take days to be shared throughout the law enforcement community, according to an FBI official." The program in…

Cite This Case Study:

"Zalmai Azmi The FBI's Chief Information Officer" (2013, April 25) Retrieved August 18, 2017, from

"Zalmai Azmi The FBI's Chief Information Officer" 25 April 2013. Web.18 August. 2017. <>

"Zalmai Azmi The FBI's Chief Information Officer", 25 April 2013, Accessed.18 August. 2017,