- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

A new CIA and FBI translation center will expand the number of linguists aiding the war on terrorism by shipping materials through secure networks to translators living across the United States, the center’s director said yesterday.

National Security Agency linguist Everette Jordan said his newly created National Virtual Translation Center (NVTC), which officials expect to be operational by early next month, will “handle the critical overflow of information that the current translation resources are unable to get to.”

Based near the FBI headquarters in the District, the NVTC will involve sending to translators intercepted phone conversations, seized documents and military records in dozens of “terrorism-related languages,” from Arabic, Pashto and Dari to Persian, Bahasa Indonesian and Kurdish, Mr. Jordan said.

Electronically shipping the materials means the translators will not need to travel to and stay in Washington, he said, adding the process ultimately will shorten the length of time it takes for backlogged materials to be translated.

Citing the intelligence community’s “70 percent shortfall in translators and interpreters,” Mr. Jordan said, “volumes of material in these languages remain untranslated today.”

Although the NVTC will serve mainly under the CIA and FBI, it also will operate as a clearinghouse for facilitating interagency use of translators and will translate some materials for the Defense, Justice and State departments.

The USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress shortly after the September 11 attacks, called for the center’s establishment. Section 907 of the act mandates the use of “state-of-the-art communications technology … to minimize the need for a central, physical facility” for the center.

Mr. Jordan said about 40 people will staff the NVTC’s headquarters in Washington. He announced the establishment of the center at a translators conference in Phoenix yesterday.

Mr. Jordan said the intelligence community now will be putting to use people skilled in translation who might not have wanted to travel to the District.

The NVTC will seek to employ a variety of individuals with the desired language abilities such as university professors and individuals working in private companies. Background checks of the translators will be conducted by the FBI, Mr. Jordan said.

“This is too risky,” he said in a telephone interview. “You don’t cut corners with this.”

The bulk of the material processed by the NVTC will not be “the highest priority stuff,” Mr. Jordan said, adding that the intelligence community has “people working full time on the highest, high-value things.”

Material sent to translators first will be screened to determine its level of sensitivity, he said.

Typically, the material will be funneled through a password- sensitive network to the homes of translators, where they will be able to view the material but not copy it. If the material is classified, the translator will be required to view it at a classified facility, likely a military base or an FBI field office.


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