What is on a US Secret Service mainframe anyway?

Secret Service’s mainframe apps collect tons of information about ongoing and resolved investigative cases

IBM 4381 mainframe
Periodically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the US Secret Service issues what it calls Privacy Impact Statements on systems that collect personally identifiable information. Today it issued a revealing statement on the package of applications that run on the Secret Service's mainframe and collect information about ongoing and resolved investigative cases.

This Enterprise Investigative System (EIS) is actually made up six applications that manage the Service's investigative goal to protect the integrity of the nation's financial systems. "EIS tracks information related to financial/electronic crimes, forged government checks and bonds, as part of criminal investigations. EIS also contains information on background and approval status of applicants, semi-annual review of Secret Service informants, and individuals seeking access to Secret Service's  protected events," according to the DHS document.

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From the following descriptions it is clear why the information gathered via EIS is watched and hopefully guarded carefully as all manner of private information is included. The EIS applications include the following, according to the DHS:

  • Criminal File Tracking System (CFTS): Open investigative files are stored here. Daily files are removed from the investigative case vault and presented to region personnel for review and to administrative personnel for updates. Additionally, other Divisions/Offices within Secret Service Headquarters ( Office of Investigations, Legal Counsel, etc.) are provided investigative files for review. CFTS tracks the physical location of a case file within Headquarters when it is removed by personnel. The application depicts the following information: the case file number, the location of the case file, and the name of current custodian of the case file.
  • Event Name Check System: The program is designed to meet the protective and investigative needs of the USSS. It is used to process single or multiple names to determine suitability into a USSS-protected event. The system provides the service with the ability to simultaneously check names through major databases. The system automates the name check process for users throughout the USSS. Users establish a name list under an event title. The name list will include identifiers for each individual who will be checked (name, date of birth (DOB), Social Security number (SSN), race, sex, address, telephone). Once all the names have been established under an event, the entire list is submitted for processing.
  • Evidence (EVID): During the course of a Secret Service investigation, evidence is gathered to support the potential prosecution of unlawful activity. The following items are examples of things gathered for evidentiary purposes: electronics, vehicles, currency, documents, fingerprints, DNA, statements, and video/audio recordings. EVID supports the reporting of all evidenced seized (except Counterfeit Currency). It includes who the evidence is held against, Secret Service certifying names of personnel, a description of the evidence, and disposition of all evidence.
  • Forgery System (FORG): Secret Service has primary jurisdiction into the forgery, alteration, and theft of US Treasury checks & bonds. Issuing agencies (e.g., Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, etc.) typically receive notification from their customers or by internal notification processes when it is determined that possible criminal activity is occurring. A claim is reported to Financial Management Service-Check Claims Group. An initial screening process of the claim is conducted and, if necessary, a referral is sent to the Secret Service for investigation. FORG is the tracking application used to account for the referrals. The relevant information tracked within FORG is the payee's name and address, the check symbol, the check number, and the date of the check.
  • Informants database System (INFRMT): The Secret Service uses informants to assist in the investigation of criminal activity. The use of informants is a sensitive matter which requires Special Agents to associate with persons whose motivation and reliability may be suspect. In that regard this investigative technique must be carefully controlled and monitored. The proper use of informants requires that individual rights not be infringed upon and that the Government itself does not become a violator of the law. It is imperative that the Secret Service conduct itself within the parameters of ethical and legal law enforcement behavior. INFRMT contains information on confidential informant/cooperating individual. Policies are mandated by the Department of Justice and DHS. INFRMT is comprised of the informant's name, date of birth, race, sex, height, weight, address, SSN, phone numbers, and status.
  • Master Central Index (MCI): MCI processes investigative data. Service personnel authorized to use MCI can enter data and access information through the Secret Service network. MCI contains data which supports both criminal and noncriminal investigations. MCI includes the collection of data concerning numerous aspects of cases handled by the Secret Service including the following: case type, case control limited arrest history, names, date of birth, race, sex, height, weight, eye color, addresses, SSN, phone numbers, and tattoos.

The EIS applications are by no means all of the programs that run on the Secret Service mainframe system.  You may recall in 2010  ABC News detailed a Secret Service memo that noted Secret Service mainframe ran 42 mission-oriented applications and said IT security did "not meet" current operational requirements among other issues.

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That confidential report said the US Secret Service was using a mainframe system developed in the 1980s and only had an uptime of about 60-65%.  The report caused quite a stink.  At the time Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn said: "We have here a premiere law enforcement organization in our country which is responsible for the security of the president and the vice president and other officials of our government, and they have to have better IT than they have."  ABC News detailed a Secret Service memo that noted the mainframe ran 42 mission-oriented applications and said IT security did "not meet" current operational requirements among other issues.

DHS has reportedly spent millions to rectify the problems detailed in that report though evidence that changes have been made are scarce.  

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