Lawmakers air concerns about terrorism intelligence office

Members of two House committees on Tuesday posed questions about accountability issues at the government's new joint counter-terrorism intelligence analysis office, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC).

"At this very moment, terrorists could be plotting another terrorist attack on America," said Homeland Security Committee ranking Democrat Jim Turner of Texas. "But who is in charge of making sure that any information the government might have about the plot doesn't fall through the cracks? No one knows with certainty."

"There is no clear basis for accountability," Turner continued. "One thing we do know is that the robust intelligence function of the Department of Homeland Security [laid out in the act creating the department] does not exist."

Officials from TTIC, FBI and Homeland Security testifying to the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees said by statute, the responsibility for intelligence analysis is shared between agencies, and is not solely the job of Homeland Security.

"TTIC was not created by law," said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox, R-Calif., referring the presidential action that established the center earlier this year. "Today we want to hear that the Department of Homeland Security is fully and unequivocally committed to bringing its Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection to its full, statutorily mandated, capabilities," said Cox.

Cox and other members are concerned that Homeland Security's statutory obligation to receive all of the government's raw, potentially terrorist-related information may have been undercut by the creation of the TTIC.

TTIC is a group of analysts from agencies such as Homeland Security, FBI and the CIA, who began work on May 1. The CIA director oversees it. It now has more than 100 officers drawn from the partner agencies, and will have several hundred in a year, TTIC Director John Brennan said. Over the next year, TTIC expects to have 40 Homeland Security and 30 FBI analysts.

Under pressure from Cox, who referred to the memorandum creating TTIC, Brennan and Bill Parrish, acting assistant secretary for information analysis at IAIP, acknowledged that raw information may go to TTIC first and then with human intervention, be passed on to Homeland Security if it is seen as terrorist-related. Cox said that is not consistent with the Homeland Security statute, and said Homeland Security should get raw, unanalyzed information in real time simultaneous to TTIC. But Parrish said IAIP has access to all relevant information, and assured members that the 19 statutory functions laid out in the Homeland Security Act are being implemented.

Brennan said TTIC's challenges include making it possible for technologies to communicate with each other, ensuring that sources and methods are protected, processes are streamlined and privacy rights are protected.

Jerry Berman, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, testified that oversight of intelligence analysis is the job of Homeland Security, which is important since it is the only agency involved that has appointed officials for civil liberties and privacy. He said without oversight, agencies could collect the wrong information on the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

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