Intell bill funds office to track terrorist money

The Treasury Department will create an office to track how terrorists spend and receive money, according to the conference report for the intelligence agency authorization bill.

Among other provisions, the Homeland Security Department would start a program for federal, state and local government officials on how to better share intelligence. The Bush administration would also be required to identify policies and regulations that have been hurdles for sharing classified information among agencies.

The Defense Department must test whether analysts can efficiently access and process data from intelligence databases. DOD must also report on the vulnerability of its computer networks and its dependence on hardware and software manufactured overseas.

The provisions are included in the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2417). The conference committee's report was published Nov. 20, and the Senate approved it by a voice vote Nov. 21. The House must vote on the bill and President Bush must sign it before it can become law.

The 2004 intelligence budget is between $35 billion and $40 billion, industry officials say. Most of the details of that budget are classified.

Policies and programs implementing lessons learned from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks dominate the bill, industry officials say.

"The bill is part of an ongoing response to the lessons learned from [Sept. 11]," said Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit organization that provides scientific analyses of public policy.

Treasury's new Office of Intelligence and Analysis will give efforts to track terrorists' finances more importance and a greater public profile, Aftergood said. "One of the most important tools to combating terrorism is to go after the terrorists' finances," he said.

The department's new intelligence office will find, process and examine information and conduct counterintelligence worldwide similar to Treasury's activities in the United States.

Programs and policies aimed at improving information access and sharing also influence the 2004 intelligence budget, industry officials say (see box).

"This has been one of the primary trends during the past 15 years," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a nonprofit defense policy group.

***

Access granted

The Intelligence Authorization bill proposes a pilot program that would involve allowing analysts from various intelligence agencies to access, process and analyze foreign communications intercepts called signals intelligence.

The test has three goals:

* Increase analysis of data collected from all sources.

* Maximize the amount of intelligence information that is processed.

* Reduce existing burdens on analysts in accessing and examining intelligence information.

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