Intelligence plan would use state po­lice as hubs of ter­ror­ism data net­work

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Shaun Water­man

A new plan from the U.S. intelligence czar will use intelligence cen­ters run by state po­lice as the hubs for a na­tional net­work of of­fi­cials from dif­fer­ent agen­cies and lev­els of gov­ern­ment shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about ter­ror­ism.

In a move likely to rat­tle pri­vacy mavens, the three-year plan for im­ple­ment­ing the con­gres­sion­ally man­dated In­for­ma­tion Shar­ing En­vi­ron­ment (ISE) also lays out poli­cies de­signed to ease shar­ing with for­eign gov­ern­ments, and pro­poses to widen the def­i­ni­tion of share­able ter­ror­ism in­for­ma­tion.

The plan “pro­vides a road map for the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ISE, and re­sponds to the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion,” said Thomas McNa­mara, pro­gram man­ager for the ISE in the Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional Intelligence.

En­acted as part of the 2004 intelligence re­form law, ISE tried to cre­ate a seam­less “net­work of net­works” con­nect­ing of­fi­cials — and the ter­ror­ism-re­lated in­for­ma­tion to which they have ac­cess — by chang­ing rules across the in­creas­ing num­ber of fed­eral, state and lo­cal agen­cies whose mis­sion in­cludes pro­tect­ing the United States from ter­ror­ism.

Mr. McNa­mara said the aim was to cre­ate “a vir­tual in­ter­state sys­tem,” and that the law- en­force­ment “fu­sion” cen­ters be­ing set up in states and large mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would be the “nodes where in­for­ma­tion can be pro­cessed, con­densed and eval­u­ated.”

But such in­for­ma­tion in­cludes per­sonal data about Amer­i­cans held by gov­ern­ment agen­cies. In the wake of rev­e­la­tions that a Pen­tagon ter­ror­ist threat data­base con­tained re­ports about law­ful anti-war protests, ques­tions con­tinue to be raised about the civil lib­er­ties and pri­vacy im­pli­ca­tions of the seam­less shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion en­vis­aged by the ISE.

John Rollins, an an­a­lyst with the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice who for­merly worked on in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing is­sues at the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, said con­cerns have been raised about reg­u­la­tions af­fect­ing the fu­sion cen­ters.

He said fed­eral reg­u­la­tions al­ready gov­erned the cen­ters’ state and lo­cal data­bases, but it was not clear how much over­sight the Jus­tice De­part­ment planned to do.

Mr. McNa­mara ar­gues that the new sys­tem will strengthen civil lib­er­ties and pri­vacy “if it is done right.”

“There is al­ready in­for­ma­tion shar­ing go­ing on,” he said, adding that ISE sys­tems could add over­sight ca­pa­bil­i­ties that would “track, au­dit and mon­i­tor the use of the sys­tem” to pre­vent abuse.

Two con­tentious ar­eas on which his plan pro­poses to pro­ceed are the shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion with for­eign gov­ern­ments and pri­vate­sec­tor firms.

The plan says that fed­eral de­part­ments and agen­cies should be­gin to en­sure that their so-called “sys­tems of records” no­tices and rou­tine dis­clo­sures re­quired by the Pri­vacy Act “pro­vide for ter­ror­ism in­for­ma­tion shar­ing with for­eign part­ners.”

It also calls for in­for­ma­tion shar­ing with the private sec­tor that is “likely to en­tail is­sues re­quir­ing ex­ec­u­tive level de­ci­sions or leg­isla­tive changes.”

Mr. Rollins called the plan “a good start” but said that more than five years af­ter Septem­ber 11, “all we have is a plan. [. . .] The real hard work starts now.”

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