Bill seeks to open info pipeline between feds, 'first responders'

The leaders of the House Intelligence Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee have introduced legislation that seeks to open a pipeline of communication between certain federal agencies and the "first responders" to emergencies.

Subcommittee Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and ranking Democrat Jane Harman of California made their proposal after emergency personnel who responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani testified before the panel last October.

"We cannot achieve top levels of homeland security if we cannot share information," Chambliss said in a statement on the new bill, H.R. 3825. "Our first step in combating the war on terrorism and preventing future attacks of all kinds is establishing solid standards and methods of communicating between federal, state and local governing entities."

The legislation would require federal agencies such as the FBI and state and local emergency personnel to share information with each other. It calls for using existing technology that declassifies data by stripping sensitive information from it, and for sharing the information through existing networks such as the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

Agencies would have six months to develop the procedures for sharing information. And the number of background checks of state and local personnel would be increased to facilitate the sharing of information that cannot be declassified.

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