Threat center defends itself

Administration officials defended the creation of a domestic terrorist analysis center Tuesday, but Democrats and other critics have concerns.

At a contentious congressional hearing on the recently established Terrorist Threat Integration Center, intelligence officials said the organization has adequate mechanisms to analyze data and send it to the right people.

If the center, which reports to the CIA, receives information that American lives are at stake, officials will make sure it reaches the proper hands.

"I'm going to ring the bell long and hard," said integration center Director John Brennan, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Select Committee.

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that exposed gaps in the U.S. intelligence apparatus, lawmakers questioned the need for another intelligence agency when the FBI and CIA could have improved sharing information about potential terrorists.

"I'm having trouble understanding the rationale for this agency, as well," said Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va.

It is unclear who is in charge of ensuring information goes to the right place at the right time, said Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas.

"If we do not have a clear plan on where terrorism information should be reported and who is responsible for analyzing the information, we run a grave risk of missing key information that could prevent the next Sept. 11, [2001]," Turner said.

The center has a classified Web site to provide terrorism-related information for about 2,000 officials with security clearances, Brennan said. His organization is working on expanding the database to include material for state and local government and private industry, he added.

Brennan said his group does not gather information or engage in operations. It is not officially part of the CIA but is a joint venture that includes the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Some civil liberties groups are skeptical of putting the center under the CIA. "It appears to have been cut loose," from oversight, said Jerry Berman, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group. "Who's going to mind the store in making sure that national security and civil liberties are protected?"

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