House puts terrorism information sharing bill on fast track

House puts terrorism information sharing bill on fast track

Rep. Saxby Chambliss

The Bush administration and leaders of both parties in the House are working with the Judiciary Committee to rush through a bill that would require the CIA, the FBI and other federal intelligence agencies to share information with state and local police.

The Judiciary Subcommittee Committee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security approved the Chambliss-Harman Homeland Security Information Sharing Act June 4, two days before President Bush unveiled his plans for a Homeland Security Department. The full committee is set to mark up HR 4598 at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The bill would eliminate stovepipes that prevent information sharing among state and federal agencies charged with fighting terrorism, its House sponsors said.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Judiciary chairman; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (R-Calif.), the Democratic whip; and 28 other lawmakers have endorsed the bill. Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) co-authored the legislation with Rep. Jane Harman, (D-Calif.). Neither of the bill's authors serves on the subcommittee, but both are members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

The bill also would direct the attorney general and the CIA director to develop procedures for information sharing via existing networks, such as the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, after stripping intelligence data about sources and methods. Further, it would increase the number of security clearance investigations at the state and local levels to ease concern about distributing classified information.

The bill would mandate the use of declassification methods similar to those now used to share intelligence with NATO and Interpol members.

'While we have enhanced the capabilities of the federal, state and local officials to prepare and respond [to terrorism], as a nation, we still lack a coherent, effective and efficient way to share sensitive intelligence and law enforcement information among those who need to know,' Chambliss said at the subcommittee hearing. 'Our police officers, firefighters, sheriff's offices, medical personnel and elected officials must be informed of threats that exist in their communities so that they are able to protect the citizens in their own towns.'

The Office of Homeland Security and the CIA helped draft the bill.

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