Online extra: Is the data for spies or for cops?

Some cultural barriers to information sharing for homeland security reflect a fundamental conflict: Intelligence agencies gather secret information for purposes of preventing terrorist acts; law enforcement agencies prosecute offenders.

Intelligence gathering is intended to prevent incidents and neutralize opponents, by extralegal or military means if necessary. Evidence gathering for law enforcement must support eventual court proceedings.

'An intelligence function is very different from a law enforcement function, and when all is said and done you may not be able to put the round peg in the square hole,' Jim Kane, president and chief executive officer of Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va.

'In fact, you really do have a round peg called intelligence where you have to protect sources and share some information and give a little to get a little. Of course, that is information you cannot use in court to protect your sources. It may simply be an area where you accept the fact that you are operating in two separate spheres,' Kane said.

David Colton, vice president of the Information Technology Association of America, said many information-sharing barriers between the law enforcement and intelligence arenas have taken on the force of law.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for years has been a line between the counterintelligence information the FBI gathers and its criminal investigative evidence, he said.

'It was memorialized in a series of court decisions,' Colton said. The USA Patriot Act of 2001 was meant to end the prohibition on information sharing between the FBI's counterintelligence and criminal investigation arms, but workers maintained the separation until a decision by the Foreign Intelligence Review Court broke it down.

'It was a fascinating case in itself of how stovepipes not only take on cultural, institutional and bureaucratic momentum but can leak out into the legal system irrespective of the original law,' Colton said.

One issue that fragments the Homeland Security Department's efforts to achieve information sharing is the varying cultural backgrounds-and information sensibilities-of its component agencies.



Agencies within HSD, divided into groups by mission and (level of classification)

Military and intelligence (secret)

  • Chemical, biological and radiological programs from the Energy and Defense departments and Energy' Nuclear Incident Response Team


  • Coast Guard's homeland security and overseas military functions


  • Cybersecurity activities, including the former Commerce Department Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, General Services Administration's Federal Computer Incident Response Center and FBI National Infrastructure Protection Center


  • Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate


  • National Communications System


  • Secret Service


  • Investigative law enforcement (sensitive)

  • Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which includes elements of the former Border Patrol, Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service


  • Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which includes parts of the former Customs, INS and Federal Protective Service


  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center


  • Office of the Inspector General


  • Transportation Security Administration
    Scientific and health (partly classified)


  • Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


  • Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency


  • Metropolitan Medical Response System, Office of Emergency Preparedness and Strategic National Stockpile from Health and Human Services Department


  • Plum Island Animal Disease Center, formerly part of the Agriculture Department


  • Science and Technology Directorate


  • Civilian (sensitive but unclassified)

  • Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services


  • Federal Emergency Management Agency


  • Management Directorate


  • Office of Private-Sector Liaison


  • Office of State and Local Government Coordination


  • Other (varying security levels)

  • Agricultural Quarantine Inspection Program


  • Coast Guard's search and rescue, oil spill recovery, and boat safety activities


  • Emergency Food and Shelter, which may be moved to the Housing and Urban Development Department


  • FEMA disaster assistance


  • Flood Map Modernization Fund


  • National Flood Insurance Fund


  • Secret Service anticounterfeiting and financial activities


  • Reader Comments

    Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

    Please type the letters/numbers you see above