Information sharing on terrorism lags, House told

Ridge says HSD is working on the technology to consolidate the government's 12 watch lists.

Henrik G. DeGyor

The Homeland Security Department still is not receiving full access to the intelligence community's terrorist information, according to a department document revealed at a House hearing this month. The department also lacks a computerized system to track hard copies of intelligence reports, and is instead logging them manually, according to the document.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) said at a hearing of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security that he has asked the department to provide a list of what it has received from intelligence agencies.

'We received a partial answer,' Turner said to Homeland secretary Tom Ridge, who testified at the hearing. 'The department is receiving no CIA top-secret reports because the CIA system does not include Homeland Security Department addresses. Despite our repeated inquiries about intelligence, we have gotten no response. Local and state authorities say they have not received any tailored intelligence product.'

No CIA paper reports

An HSD memo issued at the hearing in response to Turner's questions said the department does not receive hard-copy reports from the CIA. It has received about 30 classified FBI documents.

The memo said HSD's Intelligence Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate also receives classified e-mail through the Homeland Security Operations Center.

According to the memo, 'The IAIP Directorate is not receiving CIA top-secret cables because the CIA's message handling system does not contain DHS addresses. The IAIP Directorate and the CIA are working to resolve this issue.'

HSD analysts also receive intelligence via the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System and the Defense Department's Secret IP Router Network.

They review classified Web sites of organizations such as the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration and State Department via the classified networks.

Ridge said the department has started the process of obtaining access to intelligence products via the Terrorist Threat Information Center. He said HSD is using staff detailed from the FBI and CIA for the work, and is looking to hire its own intelligence analysts.

'We have begun the process of developing information bulletins and advisories for state and local' agencies, he said.

In addition to the intelligence sharing difficulties, Ridge said, the federal government's 12 different watch lists still have not been consolidated. 'We are presently working on the technology to consolidate' the lists, he said, and the department is working with other agencies to overcome related policy issues.

Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-N.Y.) criticized HSD's cooperation with state and local police, saying the information the department distributes has been limited in some cases to 'the birthdates of prominent Muslims.' At one police agency in her district, 'The information from the Department of Homeland Security goes directly from the fax machine to the trash,' she said.
Ridge responded that the department is committed to developing statewide templates to guide local agencies in their homeland security tasks.

Committee chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) said after the hearing that HSD 'has gone light years in the field of information sharing. It is clear, however, that it still has light years to go.'

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