Better data sharing key to fighting terrorism, former CIA boss says

Top-notch intelligence 'is truly a first line of defense' against terrorist attacks, and federal agencies must make greater efforts to collect, digest and share data, a former CIA director said today.

Stansfield Turner, speaking at an industry-sponsored conference in Washington, blended broad recommendations for better intelligence gathering with observations of evolving U.S. foreign policy and how they relate to fighting terrorists.

'What we want to do is cut them off at the pass. We don't want to wait until a 9-11 has happened,' Turner said. 'That means we need to know who they are, when they are going to operate, where and against what.'

Echoing recent congressional criticism, he said the new Homeland Security Department 'doesn't really address this problem, or at least it doesn't address the most fundamental problem of our intelligence apparatus today: The lack of coordination in the exchange of data.'

Turner, director of the CIA from 1977 to 1981, said, 'We don't have enough money in support for our firefighters and hospital personnel, and we don't have a way yet ' of integrating those people into our antiterrorist network.'

For example, he said, thousands of state and local police officers have 'to be brought into a network so that a little clue here, of a person being arrested for speeding in Montana, can be tied in with a little clue over here of something going on that was nefarious.'

While HSD is 'off to a good start,' Turner said, 'we've not made much progress on keeping track of foreign visitors to our country.'

Turner, now a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland's Center for International Security Studies, spoke at the close of a three-day IT security conference sponsored by Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

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