Feds info policy evolving

As part of its evolving strategy for handling tips about potential terrorist

threats, the federal government is developing new policies for classifying

information and for sharing it with state and local government, according

to the staff director for the Office of Homeland Security.

As part of its new Homeland Security Advisory System, the government

has created the designation "sensitive homeland security information" to

denote information that should not be generally distributed, said Col. John

Fenzel, speaking March 26 at the 2002 SEARCH Integrated Justice Information

Systems Symposium in Washington, D.C. The three-day symposium is being sponsored

by SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics,

the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Justice Department.

He said the designation was similar to one used by law enforcement officials

to classify sensitive information.

Fenzel said the homeland security office was creating a "tear sheet"

system for disseminating the information. A tear sheet is an old publishing

term for ripping pages out of a newspaper or book for quick distribution

during the proofing process. As part of the new system, for example, the

office would take a CIA or FBI report that relates a threat, "distill" the

sources and methods from it and send it out to the appropriate state and

local officials, he said.

The office is also creating a coordination center, which he described

as a backup system of information sharing akin to the White House's Situation

Room, with the ability to run secure video-teleconferencing across the federal

agencies and among federal, state and local governments.

He said this center would help the administration to monitor the "vital

signs" of our country, which "means we need to determine what is the normal

pulse of our country on a day-to-day basis."

For example, if there is increased usage of Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol

in New York City, he said the government would know there could be a health

problem and notify the appropriate officials. He said it would be able to

take disparate pieces of information — "much like a puzzle" — to see if

there is enhanced risk in a certain location or sector.

Fenzel was staff director for the National Preparedness Review, a task

force created by the Bush administration, which recommended the creation

of a homeland security office.

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