Mapping the Risks. Assessing the Homeland Security Implications of Publicly Available Geospatial Information
RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA
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In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. officials have instituted information protection policies aimed at bolstering homeland security. These policies aim to minimize the opportunities of potential attackers exploiting publicly available information they might obtain from federal sources in planning attacks against U.S. homeland locations. Of particular concern to U.S. officials are the federal sources of geospatial information. Geospatial data and information are useful for identifying various geographical features of U.S. locations and facilities, as well as characterizing their important attributes. Although federal agencies produce and publicly disseminate such information for a wide range of beneficial purposes, the risk also exists that some types of geospatial information could be exploited by terrorists. Federal agencies thus face a challenge in deciding which types of geospatial information should be publicly accessible, as well as whether and how to restrict new sensitive information as it becomes available. This study frames the analytical issues associated with assessing whether and how geospatial data and information that is publicly available from U.S. federal agencies can be exploited by potential attackers, including terrorists, for attacking U.S. critical infrastructure and other key homeland locations. The results of our analysis yield insights that can assist federal and other decision makers by highlighting key factors they should consider in addressing this issue. The study also offers an analytical process that can serve as an initial framework for assessing publicly available geospatial information in order to understand its homeland security implications.
- Civil Defense
- Unconventional Warfare