Crisis spurs FBI to enlist intelligence resources to create a master database of missing Native Americans
Washington, D.C. – When a massive federal data breach prompted congressional hearings on Jan. 3, it was not just a reminder that the FBI and its law enforcement agencies often have little to no idea what is happening on the front lines of our most serious and pressing investigations — it was also an opportunity to explore just how much the agency is unprepared to deal with the threats of cybercrime and terrorism.
The FBI is now facing a cyberthreat so large that it has turned to a federal intelligence agency to help it make sense of it all.
The effort is part of a wider national effort to create a master database of missing Native Americans, in which the FBI is relying on federal intelligence agencies to gather information that may help the agency figure out who the missing have been.
The FBI has assembled a task force of nine federal agencies to investigate how to collect data on missing Native Americans from every state and tribes in the U.S. to “build a comprehensive, integrated repository of missing and exploited members of the Cherokee Nation.” The group was formed in response to a congressional hearing earlier this month, where the FBI confirmed that it had found more than 1,000 deadbeat parents in a database with a similar purpose — a database that could be used to help identify missing parents in North Carolina and the Cherokee Nation.
While the FBI’s effort may be a case of the government acting to improve its capabilities, it is also emblematic of its broader failure to understand the significance of the missing and exploited. The problem is rooted in the fact that government agencies have a different relationship with information than do businesses, said Tom Wheeler, a digital privacy scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. The information needs of government agencies often trump the public’s interest in privacy, Wheeler said.
“We use information in government like it’s a drug, and we want someone to know what’s in there,” Wheeler said. “Information is used differently by the federal government and businesses. The use that is appropriate for a police or military force is not the same as the