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Back to Archives | Back to February 2006 Contents 

Special Focus: LawEnforcement Online The National Alert System

By Lesley G. Koestner, Supervisory Special Agent, Law Enforcement Online Policy, Planning and Membership Unit, Criminal Justice Information System Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C.

Photograph credit: FEMA News Photo

he mission of the FBI's Law Enforcement Online (LEO) National Alert System (NAS) is to enhance communication, coordination, and cooperation between federal, state, and local government agencies representing the law enforcement and homeland security communities by providing an alert system for rapid dissemination of critical information related to terrorism intelligence throughout the United States.

The NAS can be used in conjunction with a virtual command center or independently. The NAS delivers timely and sensitive alert information securely to thousands of Joint Terrorism Task Force members and law enforcement command centers. The NAS can deliver secure popup message boxes containing law enforcement sensitive information to 20,000 online users within five minutes. The same message is also delivered to all users' LEO e-mail accounts. The alert message will contain a short synopsis and a hyperlink that directs the recipient to additional information that has been posted on a secure LEO site. The NAS is also capable of sending up to 160,000 nonsecure notifications to pagers, cellular phones, and other wireless devices to advise that an alert has been sent. The NAS maintains records regarding delivery of each message and archives all NAS alerts and notifications.

The LEO functions as a conduit for FBI sensitive-but-unclassified (SBU) intelligence information, and in this way supports all of the bureau's missions and strategic goals and objectives. The LEO forms a cornerstone of the FBI Information Sharing Initiative. The LEO network provides an Internet link to state, local, and tribal police departments and agencies throughout the United States. The LEO is a certified and accredited system that is approved for the dissemination of SBU intelligence information.

Assistant Director Thomas E. Bush III, of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said, "The LEO NAS is an excellent tool to provide immediate alerts to the law enforcement community." The LEO is used to provide the law enforcement community with SBU information, communicating alerts, intelligence bulletins, and educational purposes. This information is sent in a secure environment to specific recipients using computers, cell phones, and pagers. Messages can include text, photos, and maps. The information is intended for use by patrol officers and other law enforcement personnel who may encounter situations or information through their direct contact with the general public.

Kenneth A. Cassine, unit chief of the FBI's LEO Policy, Planning, and Membership Unit, said, "The LEO is a one-stop shop for the law enforcement community for FBI intelligence information and provides a central hub for horizontal and vertical information sharing to support investigative programs."

Alerts vs. Notifications
Alerts: Alert messages may contain information that is only to be transmitted through secure law enforcement systems. These alerts may include unclassified information for official use only and law-enforcement sensitive information. Therefore, the pop-up alert notice is only transmitted through the Internet inside the LEO Virtual Private Network.

Notifications: Notification messages are sent to nonsecure wireless devices, such as pagers, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants, and regular nonsecure Internet e- mail accounts. Since these devices are non- secure, notification messages will only advise the recipient that an alert has been sent securely to the agency's or member's LEO NAS account. The information contained in these notifications will contain only unclassified information. The mission of the LEO is to provide reliable, high availability electronic communications services for e- mail, data sharing, national alerts, analytical tools, applications, and enterprise services between the FBI and its mission partners at the federal, state, and local level for SBU information. The LEO shall support the FBI's 10 priorities (see sidebar) by providing cost- effective, time-critical national alerts and information sharing to first responders, law enforcement, and counterterrorism and intelligence agencies. It is the mission of the LEO to catalyze and enhance collaboration and information exchange across the FBI and mission partners with state-of-the-art commercial off-the-shelf communications services and tools, providing a user-friendly portal and software for communications and information exchange.

Membership Requirements
The LEO network system is only available to persons duly employed by a law enforcement, criminal justice, or public safety agency/department and whose position requires secure communications with other agencies. As an information-sharing forum, all members are encouraged to contribute information in their area of expertise. The LEO Program Office must be notified immediately upon separation of a member from an agency or department. To apply for a LEO membership application and for information about the LEO, call or write to

LEO Program Office
202-324-3364 (fax)




From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 2, February 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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