The man who has overseen the LDS Church's worldwide computer networks and communications systems has been hired by the FBI to lead the agency out of the Dark Ages of information technology and into the vanguard of anti-terrorism digital intelligence.
Darwin John, who has served as managing director of Information and Communications Systems for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints since 1990, was named this week as the FBI's new chief information officer by FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"Darwin brings a demonstrated capability to achieve broad-based results in an area critical to the FBI's success, particularly at a time when the Bureau is modernizing its information technologies, while reorganizing and re-engineering, and undergoing unprecedented change in its investigative mission and priorities," Mueller said in a statement.
While leading the expansion and architecture of the LDS Church's electronic communications platforms, John helped create its FamilySearch Web site, which averages 7 million to 8 million queries daily of its 900 million-name database for genealogical research.
"Darwin John made a tremendous contribution during his 12 years as head of the church's information and communications systems department and under his leadership, we have tapped the power of the Internet and made significant strides in using computer technology to accomplish our work," said H. David Burton, LDS Church presiding bishop. "Darwin is well-prepared for this new challenge."
The FBI is one of the few federal agencies that has not deployed digital information and communications technologies that have been common in U.S. business workplaces for years: desktop computers, Internet access, e-mail and shared databases. Currently, the FBI still keeps most of its records on paper stored at locations across the country that are not easily accessible by agents. Time-critical material--such as mugshots--is sent by overnight mail rather than e-mail. The antiquated method of tracking case information and following up on agents' warnings of potential terrorist activity has been scrutinized by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In March, USA Today reported the FBI had asked the LDS Church's genealogy database experts for help in developing name recognition programs that would assist federal investigators in finding and tracking terrorism suspects. The FBI's current database search engine returns results only if the suspect's name is spelled correctly.
At a congressional hearing in June on Mueller's request for $300 million in 2003 to install desktop computers and networks to reduce reliance on paper records, the House Appropriations subcommittee criticized investments of $1.7 billion since 1993 that have done little to improve information gathering and sharing.
Mueller told the panel June 21 he intended to hire a chief information officer from the commercial sector who could implement a common computer architecture so the FBI could easily communicate with other federal agencies.
Anti-terrorism information technology initiatives planned to be launched by the end of the summer include creating a "cybercrime" division and development of an "investigative data warehouse" that would filter vast amounts of digital information and search via analytical software for trends that indicate criminal activity.