Arizona, New Mexico collaborate on homeland security

Arizona Office of Homeland Security

The governors of Arizona and New Mexico signed a pact yesterday that will allow state homeland security officials to share unclassified intelligence information to prevent terrorist, criminal or public health threats.

During the National Governors Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed a five-year memorandum of understanding setting forth a number of cooperative activities between information sharing centers that both states are developing.

The agreement charges officials from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC) and the Border Center of Excellence in Research and Intelligence (CERI) in New Mexico to:

* Establish protocols by July 31 for information sharing on a routine basis and during special circumstances.

* Incorporate joint intelligence and operational aspects in state exercises at least one a year to test intelligence flow and processes.

* Review the agreement annually or as needed.

The CERI at the Physical Sciences Laboratory at New Mexico State University will bring law enforcement, intelligence, agricultural and health officials together and ultimately employ up to 300 intelligence analysts.

ACTIC would operate around-the-clock to provide tactical and strategic intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination to authorized agencies, to maintain and disseminate an ongoing threat analysis, and to provide a secure Web site to disseminate intelligence data, among other things.

The intent is to expand the information-sharing network to include officials from neighboring states, tribal and local governments, the federal government and Mexican border states.

State governments have discussed cross-border arrangements to share intelligence data since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Several states, including Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Michigan, have formed the controversial Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, which mines the various databases of public records for information about suspects.

However, privacy advocates claim the program may give law enforcement officials too much access to private citizen information.

The federal government is also planning or developing several information-sharing systems that would involve states, local and tribal governments.

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