House OKs data-sharing bill

'We still lack a coherent, effective way to share sensitive intelligence and law enforcement information.'

'Rep. Saxby Chambliss

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

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Chambliss-Harman Homeland Security Information Sharing Act by voice vote June 13. And the full House last week passed HR 4598 by a vote of 422 to 2.

The bill calls for the elimination of stovepipe systems that prevent information sharing among state and federal agencies charged with fighting terrorism, its House sponsors said.
Reps. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.) co-authored the bill.

Connect the nets

It would direct the attorney general and the CIA director to develop procedures for sharing information via existing networks, such as the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, after removing data about sources and methods.

Further, the bill would increase the number of security clearance investigations required at state and local levels to ease concern about distributing classified information.

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

Testimony, wiretaps

During a mark-up session, the committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to let state and local police agencies receive information about terrorism generated from federal grand jury testimony or wiretaps.

'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 way to share sensitive intelligence and law enforcement information among those who need to know,' Chambliss said.

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

Chambliss said the bill would not have to be modified to accommodate the administration's plans to create a Homeland Security Department.

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