After seeing a stagnant number of users for the first four years, a Department of Homeland Security webportal designed to share information on improvised explosive devices is finally beginning to grow, a representative of the TRIPwire program said.
Part of DHS’ office of bombing prevention, the clearinghouse for information on homemade bombs and explosive materials intended for first responders has seen an increase in users due in part to more aggressive outreach efforts, said Dennis Malloy, who represents the program.
TRIPwire began in 2006 and had between 7,000 and 10,000 users during its first four years, Malloy said at the GovSec conference in Washington, D.C. Awareness campaigns were mostly restricted to booths set up at law enforcement conferences, and those numbers rarely changed. Representatives are now traveling to police academies, bomb squad units and other first responder agencies to give three-hour presentations on what the portal has to offer. The program signs up users on the spot, and their numbers have now grown to more than 14,000.
It once enrolled one or two new members per week. That has grown to about 100 new participants per week, he said.
TRIPwire has a staff of about 40 to 50 analysts in the Washington area who are either former military bomb disposal specialists or linguists. They scour the Internet for information on the latest IED incidents domestically and throughout the world.
The “TRIP” in TRIPwire stands for “Technical Resource for Incident Prevention.” Along with intelligence reports, it offers online tutorials to help first responders recognize bomb-making materials, or spot suspicious activity that may lead to an incident.
The program gathers “sensitive but nonclassified” and “for official use only” reports from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Defense Department’s four services and its Joint IED Defeat Organization.
Another reason for the rise in users is the quality of information, Malloy said. It was initially difficult to ask these other agencies to share information. First responders, military and some members of the private sector who support them are vetted to ensure they are authorized to see the information. The other agencies want to be assured that the information is not being distributed outside these circles.
The analysts also gather their own intelligence from extremist websites, blogs and chatrooms, and it has a team of linguists ready to translate the material.
The analysts look at religious extremist sites as well as those of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and environmental or animal rights fanatics. “Basically anyone who has ever used or may use a bomb,” Malloy said.
While 14,000 users are going in the right direction, there is still more work to be done. There are more than 200,000 police officers in New York City alone, he noted.