TTIC: We help threat assessment

The Terrorist Threat Integration Center's (TTIC) director says the organization has helped federal officials determine the nation's most recent threat level.

"Last December 2003, for instance, TTIC, in close coordination with our partner entities, published a holiday threat assessment that facilitated multiagency discussions resulting in a decision to elevate the national threat level to orange," John Brennan testified before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, which held a hearing Feb. 4 on improving the color-coded threat warning system and TTIC's analysis role.

Formed last May, the center coordinates threat assessments with partner agencies, including the FBI, CIA, Defense, Homeland Security and State departments, all of which provide analysts to the center. Although TTIC is housed at CIA headquarters, it receives funding from all agencies.

Brennan said TTIC officials twice daily discuss assessments via secure video teleconferences and other regular discussions. Fourteen government networks allow for near real-time information sharing, which helps support the threat advisory system, he said. But integrating information systems and metadata standards remains a challenge, Brennan said.

Adm. James Loy, DHS' deputy secretary, said that down the road, TTIC will find value in other kinds of data to help analyze the threat. For example, he said much more can be done with proprietary private-sector data that can be mixed into the center's "cauldron." "The mix is the product that is of greater value," he added.

The center also has a classified Web site called TTIC Online, which is the primary channel for sharing information across intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities, Brennan said.

"This Web site currently has over 2,500 users throughout the federal government, and it is being updated to support collaboration and information sharing at varying levels, from top secret to sensitive-but-unclassified," he said in his testimony. "The Web site is also being updated to enable users to search across disparate [U.S. government]-maintained data sets and to enable account holders from multiple federal departments and agencies to post relevant information for collective access."

TTIC, DHS and the FBI are working to ensure that state and local officials receive relevant information as well. He said all stakeholders are working to implement "write to release" and other business processes to increase the number of sanitized and unclassified products for rapid distribution.

In response to a question about whether TTIC should be relocated within DHS, Brennan said the center should remain as a collaborative entity and not under the jurisdiction of one. "My view is we should not reside in any one agency," he said, adding it has satisfying and strong relationships with all the contributing agencies.

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