The FBI's "Trilogy" computer-upgrade project has come to be known as one of the great information technology disasters of all time -- the "Gigli" of computing. Now, the New York Times reports, a key part of Trilogy -- the Virtual Case File -- won't be able to deploy by the end of the year, as promised. And FBI officials "could not predict when the entire system would be in place. As a result, an important technological component of the administration's domestic security effort remains in limbo."
The Virtual Case File system, which would allow agents to share information easily a critical shortcoming of the present system is already two years behind schedule and one bureau official who spoke on condition of anonymity went so far as to suggest that the program might ultimately have to be abandoned...In the aftermath of the hijackings, Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, told a Senate panel that the bureau's computer system was so limited that it could not search its files for combinations of terms like "flight" and "schools," precisely the kind of combination that might have helped to discern the patterns of activity leading up to the attacks. Instead, Mr. Mueller said, the system could search for words like "flight" and "school" only one at a time...According to a staff report from the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I.'s primary information system, which was designed using 1980's technology, was "already obsolete when installed in 1995." The commission report said that "field agents usually did not know what investigations agents in their own office, let alone in other field offices, were working on."For now -- and for the forseeable future -- that's how things will stay.