Feds info policy evolving
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Mar 26, 2002
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.