Senate panel demands merged terror watch lists

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week unanimously approved an intelligence authorization bill for fiscal 2004 that calls for increased information sharing and data consolidation.

The committee met in a secret session to approve the bill. 'The bill provides the funding necessary to establish a single, governmentwide terrorist watch list. It also increases funding to standardize databases to facilitate access to information,' according to a committee statement.

The committee said it wants to encourage 'all-source fusion' of intelligence by requiring the CIA to launch a pilot giving its intelligence analysts access to raw information from databases run by other agencies that gather intelligence.

Some of these agencies include the National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, National Imagery and Mapping Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency.

The committee's chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said he was particularly pleased by the panel's May 1 passage of the bill because it emphasizes information sharing and 'the restoration of the [intelligence] community's analytical function.'

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.), the committee's ranking minority member, said his 'goal with this bill is to take the first step in improving information sharing, collaboration and domestic intelligence.'

The General Accounting Office last week issued a report calling for a coordinated terrorist watch list and detailed hurdles to creating a single database. (Click here for GCN story)

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has identified a consolidated list as a priority IT project at his department. (Click here for GCN story)

A factor that has led to the proliferation of lists is that a lot of terrorism information comes from law enforcement agencies, not intelligence agencies, said James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

'That is why everybody has their own list. Another problem is, if you have a single list, who is going to own it?' Lewis said.

The bill is 'the Senate select committee staking out who is going to lead on list management,' he said.

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