Police can't access terrorist watch lists

Local and state police 'operate in a virtual intelligence vacuum' without access to State Department terrorist watch lists, according to a report last month from the Council on Foreign Relations Inc. of New York.

Former U.S. senators Gary Hart and Warren B. Rudman chaired the high-profile task force that produced the report, posted at www.cfr.org/publication.php?id=5099. Among their findings:
  • About 650,000 state, county and local police officers work in ignorance of the terrorist lists provided by State to federal immigration and consular officials.

  • First responders' radio systems cannot communicate between jurisdictions.

  • Legal barriers hamper the effective public and private sharing of sensitive security information.

Among the task force's recommendations were:
  • Prescreening air travelers through systems based on risk criteria

  • Setting up a 24-hour operations center in each state with access to terrorist watch lists via real-time intergovernmental links

  • Using federal funds to buy communications equipment for cash-strapped states

  • Sharing secret-level government information with nonfederal and industry leaders who have fast-track clearances

  • Exempting industry from certain Freedom of Information Act and antitrust rules that inhibit sharing security vulnerabilities with federal agencies

  • Managing homeland security appropriations under liberal Defense Department R&D rules rather than the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

The task force warned, 'Proceed with caution when embracing technological security fixes. Technology can often serve as an enabler, but it must belong to a layered, dynamic system of defense that incorporates human intuition and judgment.'

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