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Improving Intelligence: The Experts' Views
Both before and after Sept. 11, experts weighed in on the nation's homeland security preparedness and the U.S. intelligence community's ability to anticipate terrorist attacks. Recommendations ranged from upgrading the FBI's computers to creating a separate agency that would specialize in the collection of domestic counterterrorism intelligence. Here is a summary of reports on this topic from some the more prominent commissions.

Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change

The U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, was set up by the secretary of defense to conduct a bipartisan review of U.S. national defense policy. Chaired by former Senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and former Senator Warren Rudman (D-N.H.), the committee released this report, the third installment in a series, on Feb. 15, 2001. It recommends creating a National Homeland Security Agency (NHSA) and says that the president, with the guidance of the National Security Council, should set "national intelligence priorities" for the director of Central Intelligence (DCI). The report also suggests that procuring more human intelligence sources on terrorism, including recruiting foreign nationals to serve as agents, be a top priority of the DCI. Finally, it notes that the intelligence community must beef up its technological capabilities so as to remain on the cutting edge for the 21st century. [Note: This report is a pdf file; Adobe Acrobat required]

America -- Still Unprepared, Still in Danger

Following 9/11, the Council on Foreign Relations sponsored a follow-up report by the Hart-Rudman Commission. Released in October 2002, it takes a closer look at the nation's preparedness for another terrorist attack and makes detailed recommendations for emergency services at both the national and local level. Regarding counterterrorism, the report recommends the establishment of 24-hour centers in each state to link local and federal law enforcement agencies in order to improve information sharing. It also suggests law enforcement increase efforts to combat identity fraud and implement modern communications technology to facilitate the passage of information between the various agencies.

Protecting America's Freedom in the Information Age

The Markle Foundation seeks to find ways to use information technology to improve public life. Its Task Force on National Security in the Information Age counts among its members individuals from both the public and private sectors, including current Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark; Robert Bryant, the FBI's former deputy director; Slade Gordon, former Republican senator from Washington; and James Barkdale, former president and CEO of Netscape Communications. In October 2002, it released this report, which outlines a plan by which the Department of Homeland Security would take the lead in domestic intelligence, becoming an "all-source intelligence analysis center" that would "filter" and "pass back" intelligence to the FBI and CIA.

The task force argues that the FBI should stick to law enforcement and cites Judge Royce Lamberth's FISA Court decision, which pointed out more than 75 occasions on which the FBI had acknowledged misleading the court on wiretap applications, to make the case that the FBI should not take on the task of intelligence collection. For the FBI to keep a check on the intelligence activities it must engage in as part of criminal investigations, the report suggests that the bureau set up a new department for oversight. [Note: This report is a pdf file; Adobe Acrobat required]

Implementing the National Strategy

Officially named the "Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Competence for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction," the Gilmore Commission, as it is commonly called, received a five-year mandate in 1999 from the Department of Defense to report annually on federal, state, and local preparedness to respond to a terrorist event. Chaired by former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore, the commission's fourth report was delivered to the president and Congress on Dec. 16, 2002.

The commission recommends the establishment of a National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC), a "'stand alone' organization outside of the FBI, CIA, or DHS" that would given equal billing among intelligence agencies. This new organization would be designed solely for the collection of intelligence on international terrorist threats within the United States and would not have the power to make arrests. It would also make threat assessments and advise policymakers on all levels, while being monitored by the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress. The Gilmore panel is careful to point out that, although the NCTC would be similar to Britian's MI5, it would adhere to U.S. laws.

The report also says that the Department of Homeland Security needs to make its intelligence requirements known to the intelligence community so that DHS can properly assess the threat. It notes that the Department of Homeland Security needs the resources to combine information from the intelligence community, NCTC, and its own work to make educated risk assessments. [Note: This report is a pdf file; Adobe Acrobat required]

Efforts to Improve Information Sharing Need to Be Strengthened

The General Accounting Office (GAO), as part of its mission to provide independent recommendations to the government, released a series of reports regarding the state of the nation's counterterrorism efforts. In a report to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, released on Aug. 27, 2003, the GAO recommends that the secretary work with the attorney general, secretary of defense, director of Central Intelligence and other "federal, state, and city authorities" to set up a "clearinghouse" for information to avoid doubling efforts among separate agencies. The report also suggests that the secretary consult with state and city authorities to address "perceived barriers" to information sharing and make informed decisions regarding the sharing of information. [Note: This report is a pdf file; Adobe Acrobat required]

Information Sharing Responsibilities, Challenges, and Key Management Issues

On Sept. 17, 2003, the GAO testified before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development, and the Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security, Select Committee on Homeland Security on a second report focused on critical infrastructure protection. This report advocates "a coordinated national plan" for information sharing responsibilities and goals. It also calls for improved efforts on the government's part to assess and address threats, while providing "appropriate incentives" to organizations outside the government to participate in information sharing. The report recommends an IT overhaul so that the DHS can meet modern demands for information sharing and counterterrorism investigations. [Note: This report is a pdf file; Adobe Acrobat required]

Intelligence and the War on Terrorism

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, an independent, nonpartisan group asked by President Bush to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks, held its fourth public hearing on Oct. 14, 2003 on intelligence issues. The one-day hearing included the testimony of former CIA directors John M. Deutch and James R. Schlesinger. Deutch expressed support for a new domestic intelligence agency, while Schlesinger cautioned that another agency would not guarantee improvment to counterintelligence. James B. Steinberg also testified at the hearing. Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution, former Deputy National Security Adviser, and member of the Markle Task Force (above), Steinberg echoed Deutch's enthusiasm for an MI5-type agency and advocated the creation of a director of national intelligence who would oversee the FBI and CIA.

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posted october 16, 2003

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