DHS struggling with 'connecting dots'

The Homeland Security Department is still facing problems getting and sharing information, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge acknowledged May 20.

Ridge, testifying before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said officials are still working on how they want to consolidate a watch list that would include the names of potential terrorists and other people who pose threats to the United States.

He told the panel that DHS has been working on the technology to consolidate the information as well as working on who should be on a watch list.

In one of the biggest intelligence gaps disclosed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officials said the CIA failed to share information that two of the hijackers were on the watch list. In addition, the FBI failed to share a report from a field agent questioning why some Arab nationals were taking flying lessons.

But Ridge said that officials wanted to make sure the information that is shared with state and local officials could be verified.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) complained to Ridge that much intelligence information is being kept from the committee because it is classified above the secret level.

In order to help the department, "We need to know the same information you know," Turner told him.

Turner also complained that DHS is not getting adequate information from intelligence agencies.

"Congress created DHS to do a better job of 'connecting the dots' of our intelligence. But serious questions remain," Turner said. "Are the various intelligence agencies responsible for our security fully sharing counterterrorism information? Does DHS have the capacity to analyze threat information and direct resources to appropriate vulnerabilities?"

DHS released a list of what it is getting from the intelligence community that includes 30 classified FBI documents with classified titles.

"We do not receive hard-copy products from the CIA," the list stated.

In addition, the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate receives classified cables at the secret level in e-mail form. But the list said IAIP "is not receiving CIA top secret cables because the CIA's message handling system does not contain DHS addresses."

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