- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

A new database on arson and explosives information, designed as an additional tool in the international war on terrorism, is being shared by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) with law enforcement agencies in Britain, Colombia and Mexico.

Known as the “XBase Project,” the system provides users with what ATF officials describe as a “comprehensive international and national information management system” that offers detailed information on explosives incidents, while fostering the sharing of data among participating members and national bomb data centers worldwide.

“In an age when bombs and other explosives are the terrorist weapons of choice, XBase has already proven itself to be an invaluable resource,” said ATF Assistant Director Kathleen L. Kiernan, who oversees the bureau’s strategic intelligence and information section.

“By allowing ATF and law enforcement agencies around the world to share and compare information securely and electronically, XBase permits those agencies to marshal their collective expertise against terrorist bombings and other explosives threats,” she said.

As part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, ATF’s law enforcement and regulatory responsibilities for firearms and explosives have been transferred from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, where the bureau’s responsibilities and strategic plan are designed to reduce the incidence of violent crime and protect the public.

ATF officials said the XBase Project grew out of discussions involving the bureau’s Arson and Explosives National Repository, which Congress tasked in 1996 as a national collection center for information on arson and explosives-related incidents throughout the United States. Also involved is Britain’s Bomb Data Center, which began a program in 1999 to automate similar files in Britain.

Scotland Yard contracted with ImageBase Technology Ltd., a British firm, and then worked with the company and ATF to develop the XBase technology, the officials said.

In 2000, ATF helped bring law enforcement agencies in Mexico and then Colombia online. Other countries reportedly are interested in the project and are expected to be brought online eventually, officials said.

The ATF officials said XBase represents a breakthrough in technology and information sharing because it is cost-effective for both developed and developing countries.

They said the software is user-friendly and does not require extensive training, and that all types of law enforcement agencies can use its applications.

The project allows ATF’s Arson and Explosives National Repository to gather information on explosives incidents worldwide, and provides all four participating countries with what the agency calls “one-stop shopping” for explosives-related incidents.

XBase users, limited to law enforcement agencies, exchange data through encrypted messages that include, among other things, information on the explosives incident, groups or individuals involved, vehicles used, power source, initiation system and firearms, the officials said.

The information arrives in a format adaptable for use in any language, so law enforcement agencies around the world can work in their own language, they said.

Information in the system is exchanged on a case-by-case basis, the officials said, triggered by a specific request from one country to another and is “permission-based,” meaning that each country will request only what it feels is necessary.

Under XBase, they said, each country maintains and controls information in its own national repository or bomb data center.

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