Mar 01 2010

Alabama's Shelby tours National Computer Forensics Institute

By Jan Griffey

Martha and Harold Cole of Calera traveled to Hoover Saturday to visit with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who met with constituents at the Hoover Public Safety Building.

At the end of that meeting, the Coles were filled with pride, not only for having spent time with Shelby, but also because they saw first hand the work being performed at the National Computer Forensics Institute, housed in the Hoover building.

Shelby’s meeting included a tour of that facility, for which he helped securing funding to establish.

“It is just a wonderful place,” Martha Cole said. “We toured the whole lab and saw the students there. It was really inspiring.”

The Coles’ son, Ray, worked with Shelby for 10 years in Alabama before moving to Washington, D.C., and becoming a lobbyist for a firm that, among other clients, lobbies for the University of Alabama system.

“I live in Calera and have passed that building so many times, but I didn’t know about all the work they are doing there. They are the only one in the world doing this,” she said. “It makes chills run over you knowing they are doing this work in the state of Alabama.”

The National Computer Forensics Institute trains law enforcement officers from around the country in how to investigate electronic crimes, including breaches to computer networks and computer forensic examinations. It is a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service, the Alabama District Attorneys Association, the state of Alabama and the city of Hoover.

The facility has trained law enforcement officers from all but two U.S. states, Cole said.

“You know all this phishing people are doing trying to get your bank information, they are the ones who are able to figure out who’s doing it,” she said.

Shelby did not make a formal presentation during the meeting, but spoke individually with officials like Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos and Roy D. Sexton, special agent in charge of the Birmingham Field Office of the U.S. Secret Service.

Randy Hillman, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, led the tour of the facility. He brought his children, Jamie and Corbin, to meet Shelby.

In addition to the Coles, Shelby talked with Calera’s Barbara Hoskins, Dennis Cole, Ray’s brother, of Greystone, and signed an Auburn University flag for Mike Watkins.

Watkins said he plans to send the flag, which also has been signed by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to Iraq, where it will be taken on some missions. The Auburn flag will be returned to him afterwards, he said, and will be presented to Auburn University in July. Watkins said his son has served three tours in Iraq.