Terror center sparks Hill skepticism

'My principal concern continues to be who will be responsible for intelligence analysis? I am not satisfied that this is clear.'

'Sen. Carl Levin

Lawmakers last month voiced skepticism about Bush administration plans for a new Terrorism Threat Integration Center that can merge counterterrorism data gathered by the government's intelligence agencies.

Members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee peppered witnesses from the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security Department with questions at a hearing Feb. 26.

'How will the integration center be an improvement over the existing intelligence structure?' Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee's chairwoman, asked. 'What is being done to ensure that the integration center will streamline and consolidate intelligence analysis rather than create duplication and confusion?'

Administration witnesses sought to allay fears that the new center's functions would overlap those of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, the FBI Counterterrorism Division, or Homeland Security's Intelligence Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

Winston Wiley, associate director of central intelligence at Homeland Security, said the goal of the center is to integrate foreign intelligence collected overseas with domestic intelligence from federal, state and local agencies. The government needs to make intelligence cooperation among agencies 'work better, and we need to institutionalize it,' he said.

The new center will be created from elements of the FBI, the CIA, HSD, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, and other smaller intelligence organizations. It is set to begin around-the-clock operation May 1.

Terrorist database

TTIC will maintain 'an up-to-date database of known and suspected terrorists accessible to appropriate officials at all levels of government,' according to a White House fact sheet.
The center will have 'unfettered access to all information,' Wiley said.

In his written testimony, Wiley referred to the center's IT infrastructure as the most advanced systems and techniques available.

'TTIC will use the existing and accepted intelligence community architecture that enables information sharing across boundaries'i.e., the Intelligence Community System for Information Sharing,' he said. 'TTIC analysts will have access to all necessary intelligence community networks.'

In a session with reporters after the hearing, Wiley said the CIOs of TTIC's participating agencies would meet to set a systems plan.

Besides taking a lead role in creating the new center's IT backbone by choosing its executive agent, the CIA appears to be the dominant TTIC member given that the center will be located on the CIA campus in Langley, Va.

'My principal concern has been and continues to be who will be responsible for intelligence analysis?' Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said. 'I am not satisfied that this is clear.'

Levin said the CIA's terrorism center now deals with 17,000 pieces of intelligence a week, generates about 300 reports a month and has about 300 analysts. He said the statute setting up Homeland Security is unclear but could be interpreted to assign to HSD the responsibility for melding intelligence that the administration now plans for TTIC.

Gordon England, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said his department would participate in the center but would mainly rely on the CIA and FBI for intelligence collection. HSD would have some intelligence assessment functions, England said.

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