DHS to push counterterror info

Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge said the proposed National Counterterrorism Center will use a push system to get threat assessment information to intelligence analysts.

The NCTC would allow intelligence analysts to operate from a consolidated database and create a centralized threat assessment for the country "as opposed to integrating perhaps individual assessments from multiple departments," Ridge testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee today.

It "will become our nation's shared knowledge bank for intelligence information on known or suspected terrorists," he said.

The proposed center previously has been described as a "TTIC on steroids" or a "Super TTIC" referring to the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which is a multiagency entity created last year. TTIC helps analysts gain a wide view of intelligence from across the intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities domestically and overseas. It provides direct access to more than two dozen federal networks.

During the hearing which focused on intelligence reform, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) asked Ridge what the NCTC would provide that TTIC cannot.

"I think you'll see much more robust and comprehensive approach," Ridge said, adding it'll help give analysts a far more complete and comprehensive domestic picture. "And I think [NCTC is] much more of a push system to push threat assessment."

Ridge also said the NCTC would take over a lot of threat assessment from DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate.

"It's a good tradeoff as far as we're concerned," he said. "We could use those analysts for other purposes and use the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, frankly, for some areas where we have an important but limited role."

A bipartisan group of senators introduced comprehensive legislation last week incorporating most of the 41 recommendations from the 9-11 Commission's report released in late July. Formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 9-11 Commission members recommended forming an NCTC and a national intelligence director post to oversee the entire intelligence community.

President Bush initially balked at the idea of a national intelligence director but has recently supported the position's creation with full budget authority. Both Ridge and State Secretary Colin Powell, who also testified today, said that a national intelligence director would help the intelligence community get better and more timely information to the people who need it. Powell characterized a national intelligence director as a "stronger, empowered quarterback."

He also said a national intelligence director would be "somebody with the authority to make judgments and change priorities and shift assets and reprogram money." A joint intelligence community council, composed of cabinet-level secretaries and others, would advise the national intelligence director on whether he or she is taking the right direction, Powell added.

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