Key House chairman backs secret anti-terrorism center

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday said he backs the creation of an anti-terrorism center beyond the reach of public scrutiny.

"There are certain dark secrets we have to protect," Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told a homeland security conference sponsored by Equity International. The Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) established earlier this year by presidential order "is designed to do ... what I am saying."

TTIC, a coordinated effort of intelligence agencies and the Homeland Security Department, was placed under the CIA's secret "black" budget. That makes access to operation of the center "very, very limited," Rogers said, and gives oversight to the House Intelligence Committee. "It should be that way for reasons I cannot discuss with you," he said. "But use of that information and the routes it travels out of the TTIC is fair game, so we will continue to oversee it."

Rogers said afterward that it is "too early to judge" whether TTIC's existence compromises the congressional mandate that the department analyze terrorist information. "TTIC is not mature yet," he said. "The jury's still out there. It's something we will keep a close eye on."

Rogers also said he is undecided on whether to support efforts to make the House Homeland Security Committee permanent next year. He said he would have to discuss the issue with the House Speaker before making a decision.

Rogers does not expect any additional emergency funding to be approved for Homeland Security this fall, nor does he see a need for it. "We've got a lot of money in the pipeline," especially for "first responders" to emergencies, he said. Congress has approved $21 billion in first-responder funding since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and Rogers' recommendation to states and localities is to apply for the grants. "Ask for it," he said.

Technology also figured prominently in Rogers' remarks. He said the private sector is going to help win the war on terrorism with new ideas, much as it did in World War II. "When we win the war, we will be able to attribute it to how well we used our technological know-how," he said.

"We're flooded with ideas and gizmos and things that will help us protect ourselves," he said, adding that the creations show American ingenuity at work. "The secret will be to take the myriad of ideas out there" and work them into a coordinated, standardized system.

Homeland Security officials at the event said tech firms must provide a "real, practical" link of their products and services to the missions of the agencies they approach for sales.

Bob Gardner, chief financial officer at the Transportation Security Administration, said his agency is under pressure to show results from its work. And Andrew Maner, chief of staff for the Customs and Border Protection Bureau, said his agency would continue to "buy a lot of hardware" for screening people and goods, detecting radiation, modernizing customs procedures and securing U.S. borders.

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