Lawmakers seek a clear role for terror threat center

Lawmakers seek a clear role for terror threat center

Members of the Senate Government Affairs Committee today peppered witnesses from the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security Department with questions about how the new Terrorism Threat Integration Center would avoid overlapping the functions of existing threat centers and about who would be in charge of intelligence analysis.

Committee chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked, "How will the integration center be an improvement over the existing intelligence structure? ... What is being done to ensure that the integration center will streamline and consolidate intelligence analysis rather than create duplication and confusion?"

Administration witnesses, led off by Winston Wiley, associate director of central intelligence for Homeland Security, sought to allay the stated fears of the committee members that the new center's functions would overlap those of the CIA Counterterrorism Center and the FBI Counterterrorism Division, as well as the HSD's Intelligence Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

Wiley said the goal of the center is to integrate foreign intelligence collected overseas with domestic intelligence. The government needs to make intelligence cooperation among agencies "work better, and we need to institutionalize it," he said.

The new center will be created from elements of the FBI, CIA, HSD, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Imagery and Mapping Agency and other intelligence agencies.

It will have "unfettered access to all information," Wiley added. "TTIC will provide an all-source threat assessment to the intelligence community as well as to state and local governments and the private sector."

In response to a question from Collins about the risk of organizational overlap, Wiley said, "What you have is a more vigorous integration of agencies. ... What we envision with TTIC is more robust capabilities to integrate the flow of domestic intelligence ... by bringing analysts together. That is a significant step up."

Wiley's written testimony referred to the center's IT infrastructure as "the most advanced systems and techniques that are available, accredited and consistent with its mission objectives.

"TTIC will use the existing and accepted intelligence community architecture that enables information sharing across boundaries'i.e., the Intelligence Community System for Information Sharing,' he wrote. "TTIC analysts will have access to all necessary intelligence community networks, and, where required, native access to their home agency's internal network.'

In a brief session with reporters following the hearing, Wiley said the CIOs of TTIC's participating agencies would meet to forge the center's IT plans.

But in addition to taking a lead role in creating the new center's IT backbone by choosing its executive agent, the CIA appeared to further dominate TTIC by having its headquarters located at the CIA compound in McLean, Va.

"My principal concern has been and continues to be who will be responsible for intelligence analysis?' Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said. 'I am not satisfied that this is clear."

Levin said the CIA's terrorism center already deals with 17,000 pieces of intelligence each week, generates about 300 reports a month, and has about 300 analysts. He said the statute setting up Homeland Security is unclear, but could be interpreted to assign to HSD the responsibility for melding intelligence.

HSD deputy secretary Gordon England said his department would participate with the center but would mainly rely on the CIA and FBI for intelligence collection and analysis. HSD would have some intelligence assessment functions, England said.

Pasquale J. D'Amuro, executive assistant director of the FBI for counterterrorism and counterintelligence, said the bureau would continue sharing information with the 66 Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country. The bureau has received about 1,200 requests for secret level security clearances from state and local law enforcement officers and approved 935 of them for officers working in the JTTFs, he said.

Levin said, "I want to be real clear: Foreign intelligence will be in the CIA, domestic intelligence will be in the FBI, and all this will come into the TTIC. That's correct?"

England said it was.

Separately, Collins expressed concern that the CIA would dominate the center: "How are you going to stop TTIC from being a creature of the CIA? When you locate an agency on the grounds of the CIA and have it report to the CIA, you are sending the wrong signal ' Wouldn't you say locating it in the HSD would help overcome these historic barriers [between the FBI and CIA]?"

Wiley said the center would be on a par with other non-CIA agencies that have offices in the CIA compound.

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