Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI)

Thomas O’Reilly, Director, Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative Program Management Office, Department of Justice elaborated his thoughts on the programme here.

Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. receive thousands of
reports a day on suspicious activity.  But how do these agencies
determine what information is related to terrorism, or for that matter,
even related to a crime?  More importantly, how do we identify the
critical pieces of information in a way that protects the privacy, civil
rights and civil liberties of individuals? 
The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI) has
created a common approach for gathering, documenting, processing,
analyzing, and sharing information about terrorism-related suspicious
activities.  This process is a behaviors based approach, where a SAR is
only documented when the “observed behaviors [are] reasonably indicative
of preoperational planning related to terrorism or other criminal
activity.” This helps mitigate the risk of profiling based on race,
ethnicity, national origin, or religious affiliation or activity.
A critical element of the NSI is the protection of Americans’
privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, which led to the creation of
a comprehensive privacy protection framework that must be adhered to by
all sites as they implement and participate in the NSI.  The NSI Privacy Framework includes:
the development and adoption of written privacy, civil rights, and
civil liberties policies; the designation of a privacy and civil
liberties officer; the institution of the ISE-SAR Functional Standard business processes; and the training of NSI personnel before sites are permitted to post or access ISE-SARs to the ISE Shared Space.
A transparent process and collaboration with advocacy groups
will reinforce the ongoing commitment to earn and maintain the public
trust.  The NSI Program Management Office (PMO)
continues to build collaborative relationships with advocacy groups,
particularly since these groups have served an essential role in the
shaping and strengthening of the NSI Privacy Framework as well as in the
development and review of foundational products, such as the revision
of the ISE-SAR Functional Standard.  The NSI PMO strongly encourages
sites to engage members of the public, including privacy and civil
liberties advocacy groups and private sector partners, in the course of
development and implementation of the NSI.
The NSI has not only created a standardized process so SAR
information can be shared easily across jurisdictions, but it has also
led to stronger protections for the privacy, civil rights, and civil
liberties of Americans.  The ongoing success of the NSI largely depends
on the ability to earn and maintain the public’s trust, so it is crucial
that NSI partners continue to work together to maximize information
sharing while strengthening privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties


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