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  1. Technology
July 15, 1993

COMPUTER FIRM BOSSES MAY FACE CHARGES, BUT THEIR TECHNOLOGY SPEARHEADS ITALY’s CLEAN-UP

By CBR Staff Writer

Over the last few months, the world has watched Italy’s battle for its integrity against political corruption and organised crime grow seemingly more pitched every week. After a year in action, the public prosecutor’s office in Milan has seen its parade of Italian industry executives come to include the giants, including Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA’s Carlo De Benedetti, Group IRI’s Franco Nobili and even television magnate Silvio Berlusconi. Further south, police in Rome and Palermo, following the trail left by martyred Mafia hunters General Alberto Dalla Chiesa and Giovanni Falcone, have brought to trial former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, charged with being the Mafia’s political protection for years. Many Italians would contend that the removal of that protection enableed the capture in mid-May of Nitto Santapaola, termed one of the Cosa Nostra’s most important military bosses and the man believed to have killed Dalla Chiesa. Both of these arms of the Italian judicial system have been making aggressive use of information systems and telecommunications technology. The technology has given both Mani Pulite and Mafia investigators a tool that, as chief magistrate Antonio Di Pietro said in Rome at a recent judicial computing conference, enables each investigator to surpass his historical memory.

Virtual file

Di Pietro is echoed by Maurizio Vallone, director of the computer crime division of the central operations of the state police, Mafia investigations last 10 to 15 years and no single cop can remember all of the information necessary to recuperate the details from a few years ago that could be helpful now. In Milan, Di Pietro has created what he calls a virtual file of information on each person under investigation for bribery. The electronic files, which can include tax statements, records of personal assets, transcripts of interviews with informants, and news articles, reside on a system constructed by Bull Italia SpA and Syntax Stato SpA, a systems house owned by Olivetti. The Unix-based system, which comprises two Bull DPX/2 servers, 70 80386-based personal computers, Oracle V.6, BRS/Search information retrieval software and Bull DCM components Affinity and Open Team, enables the magistrates to extract and combine information from five main databases via X25 and SNA networks. From a Windows interface, the justices have access to the national database of all judicial sentences (Casellario Giudiziale), a database of investigations in progress (Carichi Pendenti), the Ministry of Finance’s database of tax rolls, the Department of Motor Vehicles’ registration rolls, and the database of the Italian supreme court’s decisions. A connection to the Department of Prison Administration, which will provide real-time data such as cell availability and prisoner rosters, should be operational in a months or so, says Leonardo Giardina, director of Bull’s judicial subsidiary in Rome.

By Marsha Johnston

The Milan system, however, is the only one of its kind among the country’s public prosecutors, and the Carichi Pendenti database is available in only 18 prosecutor offices. Thus, at the quadrennial international conference on judicial information technology in Rome last month, Di Pietro lamented a lack of interoperability between systems in various prosecutor divisions and overemphasis on access to existing databases rather than to more dynamic data on investigations in process. The administration of justice is divided into two parts, the static and the dynamic, and the second part, which is a daily task, is full of holes, Di Pietro told the conference. Italy is computerised, but lacks sufficient connections between databases, so for those of us paeons who work daily for justice, the technical support falls short. Part of the problem in building a comprehensive database of investigations in process is that all information remains confidentially with the individual prosecutor until the subject has been served official notice of being under investigation, says Bartolo Argentieri, director of judicial applications developm

ent for Bull Italia, Rome. At that point, the information becomes part of the Carichi Pendenti database, he says, adding that to make preliminary investigation data available to other prosecutors runs highly counter to the strong Italian instinct for privacy. He says the entire Casellario Giudiziale network should include Carichi Pendenti data by 1994. To provide Mafia investigators with a super memory, the state police has built a system around an archive of data from all its Mafia investigations since 1984, Vallone said. The archive resides on two mirrored Compaq Computer Corp file servers, which are networked on NetWare 4.86, with Windows interfaces. The database itself is based on an evolution of Oracle, which was really just the point of departure, Vallone said. The heart of the archive is an expert system written by an Italian software house that Vallone would not identify for security reasons. Keying in a name or a licence plate number, for instance, the system will remind an investigator that the particular suspect was seen three years ago with someone who lives in X town near Palermo, Vallone said. Certain fine points in the expert system are still being completed, Vallone said, including a module containing rules of experience culled from veteran investigators. For this part, we’ve been calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation because they have a similar system they’ve worked with for years, he said. The US FBI office in Rome also brought the state police’s attention to the technology for pinpointing cellular phone calls, which was used to bring in Santapaola, Vallone said. With the technology, it’s enough to have the registration number of the telephone to know where it is when it makes a call, he said. After learning the technique, state police investigators collaborated closely with telephone operator la SIP to develop the ability to track calls made even from the illegally cloned cellular phones often used by the Mafia. In the clone phones, the registration number inscribed on the microprocessor has been altered to correspond to someone else’s legitimately-registered telephone, disguising the calls as someone else’s. After working with [SIP] for about a year, [we’re] able to isolate the exact hour of a call, right down to the second. When there is more than one call at the same moment, we know that there are probably two telephones using the same number, Vallone said. The authorities, with la SIP, interview the registered subscriber to determine if all of the calls were legitimate. If not, SIP replaces the phone with another, and the police can continue to monitor the illicit phone traffic without that user’s knowledge.

Cellular intercept

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Using such cellular intercept and spatial surveillance techniques, police investigators located Santapaola’s hideaway near Catania, Sicily and ended his 11 years as a fugitive. In a testament to the importance of the state police’s technology division, it was the director Alessandro Pansa who broke down the wooden door of the country house at dawn to surprise Santapaola asleep in bed with his wife. The central role of Pansa in Santapaola’s capture and every other major Mafia operation over the last few years has further strengthened the image of Pansa and others, reflected in one newspaper headline, as the new 007s, carrying a tie and a computer.

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