- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Senator Lieberman's alternative

I read with interest "Bush tells Congress to enable security" (Tuesday, National), in which the president said, "We're in a different world. We face an unprecedented threat, and we cannot respond with business as usual."

I agree. As both houses of Congress prepare to create a Department of Homeland Security, we must not lose sight of a basic and crucial fact: Our government cannot adequately protect Americans from terrorism if it consistently fails to detect plans for terrorist attacks before they occur.

I am proud to stand with President Bush and the House Select Committee on Homeland Security on broad, bipartisan common ground that will enable us to build an effective department together. When it comes to the new department's intelligence capabilities, however, we have substantially different approaches and I'm convinced that the model in my proposal would be far more effective than the president's plan in discovering and preventing future terrorist plots.

Nothing since September 11 has been more wrenching particularly for the families of the victims, many of whom have shared their concerns with me than learning about the devastating disconnects that plagued, and still plague, our intelligence and law enforcement communities. If all the threads of data from Phoenix, Minnesota, foreign intelligence and other sources had been woven together swiftly and systematically, our government might have learned enough to thwart the hijackings. The victims' families have rightfully and painfully asked, "How could this have happened?"

Preventing it from happening again is a daunting but critical task. While our enemies operate in fluid and informal networks, our government's method of processing counterterrorism intelligence still follows the logic of a bygone era, in which intelligence services and law enforcement agencies built rigid walls of separation between each other, and foreign and domestic streams of information rarely crossed. As we create the new Department of Homeland Security, we must seize the opportunity to overcome the obstacles that prevent those old stovepipes from sharing and analyzing all that information in a single place.

Here's how I propose to do it. My proposal would create a Directorate of Intelligence within the Department of Homeland Security as one of six major divisions. That directorate would serve as the focal point, the only one of its kind, for receiving, processing and analyzing all threats against the United States homeland. The purpose is not to duplicate other intelligence assets, such as the Counterterrorism Center operated by the CIA, which collects and analyzes intelligence related to international terrorism. However, under my proposal one office would fuse all intelligence. That means that for the first time, one office would fuse all intelligence relevant to potential attacks at home from all available sources: foreign and domestic; federal, state, and local; human and signal; "closed source" and "open source" (meaning press reports and other generally accessible information now greatly underused by existing intelligence agencies). Every stream of intelligence related to attacks against our homeland would flow into one basin and be filtered there by both expert analysts and advanced computer data processing.

The new department will not just receive intelligence collected from other agencies; it will collect a significant amount of new information in-house from the U.S. Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and other agencies that will be part of the new homeland security agency. In the post-September 11 world, this information is crucial, which will make the new department a key information resource. All of this will be centrally managed, then integrated with what's gathered from the FBI, CIA and other outside sources.

The structure I have outlined differs from the president's proposal in two very important respects. One critical difference is that my bill would give intelligence its own directorate, organizationally equal to the directorates on infrastructure protection, border and transportation security, science and technology, emergency preparedness and response and immigration. The president's proposal would imbed the intelligence division within a directorate on critical infrastructure protection where it would be focused on mapping threats to computer and telecommunications networks, energy systems, and other critical infrastructure an arrangement that I think makes less sense. The reason is simple: Intelligence analysis will be crucial to everything this department does, not just infrastructure protection. We unfortunately can imagine threats to American lives that don't involve critical infrastructure protection: a plot to detonate a bomb in a shopping mall, for instance. Even the terrible attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11 were not attacks on infrastructure as it is commonly known. Why create an exclusive link between the intelligence office and the office protecting critical infrastructure and a less direct connection when it comes to other terrorist threats?

Secondly, the president's proposal would set up a clearinghouse in which terrorism-related intelligence would be received and analyzed. In my view, to make this work as intended, we need our homeland intelligence center to be a more aggressive consumer of intelligence than that and to have broad access to information.

That's why, under my proposal, when the Department of Homeland Security determines that particular pieces of intelligence require further investigation or action, it would have the authority to go back to the appropriate law enforcement or intelligence agency and ask for that follow-up investigation or action. My legislation also would make the intelligence directorate responsible for swiftly disseminating information, when appropriate, to state and local officials and for receiving intelligence back from those officials. After all, intelligence that's not shared is not really intelligence.

In my view, we also need the department to be able to ask for and receive other intelligence agencies' unevaluated data, sometimes referred to as "raw data" the information behind the analysis, except in cases where the president specifically objects. In the Bush administration's plan, the president would have to authorize that access. I put the burden on the other side, but I've been careful to make clear that the Department of Homeland Security must work with the CIA director to protect sources and methods of intelligence information.

A perfect architectural blueprint cannot become a beautiful building without a good builder, qualified construction workers and adequate equipment. Yet without a sensible blueprint, all is lost. The Governmental Affairs Committee, in conjunction with Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, Vice-Chairman Richard Shelby, former Chairman Arlen Specter and others, has worked hard to put together just such a bipartisan proposal and I think we've succeeded.

In his memoirs, President Truman recalled the foreign intelligence challenge he faced in the mid-1940s one stunningly similar to the domestic intelligence challenge we face today and concluded: "The war taught us this lesson that we had to collect intelligence in a manner that would make the information available where it was needed and when it was wanted, in an intelligent and understandable form. If it is not intelligent and understandable, it is useless." More than 50 years later, Mr. Truman's common sense still resonates and once again argues for an aggressive new approach to gathering intelligence about terrorist threats to our people and our country this time, at home.


U.S. senator from Connecticut


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