McNamara: Intelligence sharing

There should be no doubt that our country is better organized and prepared to deter terrorist threats than it was in 2001.However, we should not believe that short-term success ensures long-term victory. Our nation’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks depends on our ability to gather, analyze and share information regarding those who would attack us.

Those responsible for protecting us from terrorism must have up-to-date information about the tactics, the targets and, if possible, the times and places of potential attacks. In the post-September 11 world, state, local and tribal authorities are full partners in information sharing that protects the nation. As a result:

  • State, local and tribal officials have significant input into our national policy on information sharing.

  • Many state, local and tribal officials participate in federal joint terrorism task forces.

  • Police officers can now access terrorist watch list data directly from their patrol cars.

  • More than 50 state and regional fusion centers play critical roles in sharing information on all crimes and hazards.

Last October, the White House released the National Strategy for Information Sharing (NSIS) that describes a vision to guide our efforts for years to come. It pragmatically builds upon past progress to establish a national information sharing capability, based on the principle that those who need information to protect our communities can get the information they need. This basic concept was developed in close partnership with state, local and tribal officials across the nation.

We are mobilizing this partnership to implement the president’s strategy and address the following challenges:

  • Create a national, integrated, network of state and regional fusion centers that support efforts against terrorism, organized crime, gang violence and other hazards.

  • To combat terrorism, we must develop community-based, intelligence-led and information- driven strategies that address all crime, not just terrorism.

  • As this network is set up, we must ensure that employees receive proper training to identify terrorist threats in local communities without overestimating or underestimating the threats.

  • We must provide federal, state and local personnel proper training and access to sensitive information while ensuring that we protect that information from inappropriate use or disclosure.

  • In accomplishing these goals, we must maintain the strongest commitment to preserving, protecting and defending the information privacy and legal rights of Americans.

We are beginning a long-term transformation whose evolution can finally move government into the new Information Age.

Some fear this transformation. But we cannot encourage our society to use 21st-century technologies — and watch our cyber adversaries do the same — while condemning governmental institutions to outdated policies and methodologies. A national effort that is democratically based, federally structured and responsibly guided can protect our society and our liberties without endangering them. Now is the time to implement the NSIS to lead to achieving these goals.

McNamara, a former ambassador, served as the State Department’s senior adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. He is the program manager for the Director of National Intelligence’s Information Sharing Environment.

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