Hill, administration draft terror panel response

Congress and the administration are working on separate tracks to implement 9/11 Commission recommendations to expand IT use for sharing terrorism information.

On the administration side, a team of IT officials convened last week to figure out how to carry out President Bush's mandate for a plan to develop information-sharing networks.

Michelle Neff, spokeswoman for the intelligence community, said representatives of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center are participating in the effort. She added that the administration expects to complete the plan by the end of the year.

Two separate approaches are likely to emerge from deliberations in Congress.

A staff aide to the House Homeland Security Select Committee said crafting a bill to implement the 9/11 panel's recommendations had overtaken efforts to pass a Homeland Security Department authorization bill.

'Neither party wants to get the blame for blocking this legislation,' the aide said.

In the Senate, the Governmental Affairs Committee this week likely will begin holding amendment sessions on legislation that would create the position of national intelligence director to oversee an IT-rich National Counterterrorism Center.

IT plays a central role in both the House and Senate proposals. But congressional staff members working on the legislation said last week that the House and Senate may take different approaches to the design of an information-sharing network.

In the works

Senate leaders in late August gave Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, responsibility to create legislation on the intelligence and counterterrorism aspects of the bill. She is working with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.).

The Collins-Lieberman legislation likely will include the main IT recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which also appear in legislation Lieberman introduced earlier this month with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

That bill, S 2774, calls for allotting $50 million for a network to share information.

In the House, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.) introduced a companion bill, HR 5040.

The Senate measure patterns its plan for an information-sharing network after recommendations by the Markle Foundation and endorsed the 9/11 Commission. The bill said the government needs a decentralized network that 'employs an information rights management approach that controls access to data rather than to whole networks.'

The interagency network would include strong privacy and security features and provide directory services to help users find people and information, the bill noted.

The bill also aims to set up incentives to reduce roadblocks to information sharing. And one provision would establish a dispute resolution process for use when agencies disagree about sharing information.

The bill would require the executive branch to submit a system design and implementation plan for the network within 270 days of enactment.

The House bill may take a different approach to the IT aspects. One aide close to the Republican leadership's work on an intelligence community reform bill called the timelines in S 2774 unrealistic and said designing a system in a law is not the right way to approach the problem.

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