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[ISN] Computer crime center opens


Staff Writer
Dec 18, 2002

The state's new computer-crime center signals greater cooperation 
between federal and state police, which is key to the future of the 
FBI, its director said Tuesday.

Robert Mueller helped officially open the S.C. Computer Crime Center 
at a St. Andrews area office building.

The $5.6 million center, where more than a dozen state and federal 
agents will use the latest technology, is the nation's first statewide 
cybercrime lab. It also will be used to fight terrorism.

"I see this as a model here in South Carolina -- not only in the cyber 
arena but as a model for law enforcement across the country," Mueller 

"The future of the FBI will be successful only to the extent that we 
are successful in establishing close and abiding relationships with 
our law enforcement counterparts," Mueller said. "If we cannot work 
together, we will fail."

Mueller and other dignitaries credited Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., 
for getting the federal money to establish the center. Similar labs 
are in New York City, San Diego and in metropolitan north Texas.

Hollings, chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee, said the money is 
"not a political handout. This will save money like gangbusters" by 
coordinating investigations.

Mueller is breaking through the FBI's "smugness" by pushing for closer 
ties between FBI agents and local police officers, Hollings said.

"We'll have resources from SLED, the FBI, the Secret Service, the 
Customs Service, the Postal Service and others, all in one computer 
lab,'' he said. "The result will be a one-stop shop for investigating 
computer crimes."

He said there are 170 million computers in the United States and 580 
million worldwide. Robbers can raid bank accounts without leaving 

Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said the lab has helped him on 
three cases. In one, analysts retrieved information from a hard drive 
a Newberry specialist thought was lost.

Foster expects a heavy demand on the center from local police.

Since July, agents at the center have worked 711 cases, said Lt. Chip 
Johnson, the SLED agent who runs the facility. Last year, SLED's 
smaller computer lab worked 331 cases, Johnson said.

Most cases have been for child exploitation, Internet fraud and 
identification theft.

The center will have 18 state and federal agents and assistants, 
Johnson said. Postal and Customs agents will work there part-time.

The 8,500-square-foot center -- nine times larger than SLED's unit -- 
is near state FBI headquarters off Interstate 26.

The center's terminals can analyze in an hour what used to take 
several hours, Johnson said, sorting quickly through mountains of 
information and tracking key evidence from bank transfers, to e-mails 
or phone calls.

Agents also have portable computers to copy and read electronic 
evidence in the field. Some have powerful Palm Pilots to use in court 
to present evidence.

The center and its training room with 38 terminals have "the latest, 
most sophisticated equipment to do the job,'' Johnson said.

Assistant Lexington County Sheriff Tim James said training for local 
police is one of the best things about the center.

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