Task force calls for unified homeland security network

It's up to the federal government to create an integrated network that will let federal, state and local agencies share homeland security information, a new report by an independent task force recommends.

The task force of national security and IT specialists, funded by the Markle Foundation of New York, unveiled its findings today at a briefing in Washington.

In its report, the Task Force on National Security in the Information Age said the Homeland Security Department should oversee design, funding and implementation of such a network, but that all users at all levels of government should have a say in how it works.

The task force dubbed its proposal SHARE, or Systemwide Homeland Analysis and Resource Exchange. The network should operate according to governmentwide guidelines for information sharing and privacy protection that DHS is developing, the report said. In July, President Bush assigned the task of creating such guidelines to DHS.

During a presentation on Capitol Hill, members of the task force repeatedly called on Bush to issue a new executive order specifically calling for creation of SHARE. They also said the president should initiate discussions between industry and government to come up with rules and procedures for government use of private-sector data in such a way that protects privacy and civil liberties.

'Strategic initiation has to come from the top,' said Eric Benhamou, chairman of 3Com Corp.

The foundation's report, Creating a Trusted Information Network for Homeland Security (pdf), cited gaps in the government's system for analyzing and sharing intelligence.

But the task force's members emphasized that existing products are adequate for both homeland security and privacy protection requirements. 'The United States has not taken advantage of available technology,' said Zo' Baird, the Markle Foundation president.

They also said that initiatives such as the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and terrorist watch list integration at the FBI should be revved up, once ground rules on privacy are established.

'We shouldn't stop them. We need to empower government officials' to obtain information they need, Baird said.

The task force also said the roles of DHS, the FBI and other agencies need to be clarified.

The foundation's task force worked with the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies to draft the report.

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