- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Lawmakers yesterday questioned U.S. intelligence officials, closely and sometimes angrily, about progress in information-sharing on terrorist threats, demanding to know who was in charge of closing the gaps that let the September 11 hijackers into the country.

Officials from the FBI, CIA and the Department of Homeland Security gave evidence to a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

Lawmakers wanted to track the progress of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a multiagency body designed to ensure that intelligence from every government agency about terrorist threats is shared and analyzed quickly enough to avoid a repeat of September 11 attacks, which killed 3,000 people.

Rep. Jim Turner of Texas, ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, asked, “As of today, who in the federal government is responsible for making sure that all the terrorism information … is brought together and shared and analyzed appropriately?”

“No single department or agency has the authority or capability to deal with the terrorist threat alone,” replied John O. Brennan, the director of TTIC, adding that the responsibility for protecting against terrorist attacks is shared by various government agencies.

“TTIC is those agencies,” he said.

He told the committee the center brought together more than 100 officials from the FBI, CIA and the departments of Homeland Security, State and Defense, with full access to the information systems of their home departments.

He compared the center to a joint military command such as the U.S. military’s Central Command, which integrates elements of all service branches.

TTIC’s job, Mr. Brennan said, is to analyze raw intelligence data to ascertain threats to the United States, and share that information with appropriate agencies.

But William Parrish, TTIC’s associate director for homeland security, admitted that the Department of Homeland Security’s information systems are not yet fully up and running. He said liaison officers from other agencies are working inside the department “until all of our [information technology] systems are in place.”

“I am confident that these work-around measures are succeeding in ensuring the … flow of information into and out of Homeland Security,” he told the panel.

In response to lawmakers’ concerns that information would not be fully shared, Mr. Parrish — who was one of the Homeland Security analysts tasked to TTIC — said he had always received the data he needed.

“I was never denied access to any of that information,” he said.

Mr. Brennan told lawmakers that a secure Web site had been established by the center, where authorized personnel could get classified data about potential threats “in real time.”

Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., pointed out that the Homeland Security Act mandated that the single central point for threat analysis should be located inside the new Department of Homeland Security.

Another witness, Jerry Berman of the lobby group the Center for Democracy and Technology, explained that “our experience of Watergate was that secret intelligence, without guidelines, without oversight, without careful scrutiny, without auditing, may start with the best of intentions, but a government of deception is not what we are. We are a government of laws.”

Responding to such concerns, Mr. Brennan said that TTIC “is not engaged in any [intelligence] collection activity, clandestine operation or law enforcement measures.” He said the center’s activities were governed by guidelines that protect Americans’ constitutional rights.

Other lawmakers seemed concerned that TTIC was duplicating what the Department of Homeland Security itself should be doing.

Calling the center a jobs program for the intelligence community, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat, asked, “Why are we duplicating efforts? … Can’t one of you get it right?”

“There is going to be overlap, and there’s got to be overlap,” Mr. Brennan said. “We cannot afford to have any gaps or seams.”

Many lawmakers seemed doubtful and irritated by the responses they received.

“I had hoped that having you all here (from your various agencies) would have cleared things up, but it hasn’t,” lamented Del. Donna Christensen, Virgin Islands Democrat.

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