New agency aims to improve flow of anti-terror information

A new federal organization has the daunting task of convincing secretive organizations such as the CIA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency to share information.

The Bush administration last week announced the creation of a new U.S. information agency designed to improve the flow of information among the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies involved in the war on terrorism.

Details of the new agency remain scarce, but it is headed by former National Security Adviser John Poindexter, who holds a doctorate in information technology and has long pushed for greater data flow among pertinent agencies, officials said yesterday.

The agency has several goals, among them to solve the cultural problem of getting secretive organizations such as the CIA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency to share information, officials said.

Representatives from these organizations are currently "working like crazy" to create a new supercomputer system that would make it easier for them and the other 30 federal agencies that collect classified data to cull and share information, a U.S. official said last week.

"It's not going as well as it could. We're looking for ways to improve," Special Assistant to the President Frank Cilluffo told Global Security Newswire after delivering a speech at a bioterrorism conference.

"We are coming up with ways to fuse the information so as not to jeopardize the sources and methods," from which the data was obtained, Cilluffo said. "It's a push-pull process. There is no easy answer."

A major hurdle, he said, is persuading the CIA, FBI and a host of other secretive agencies to not only open up and share information, but to understand each other's needs--hence, each other's cultures.

Currently the Customs Service and other organizations on the front lines of the war on terrorism are not linked to the databases of the CIA--a gap the new agency wants to fill to prevent more terrorists from entering the United States.

Getting the CIA, DIA and other intelligences agencies to work in harmony with the FBI, Customs and other law enforcement agencies is a difficult task due to their different mindsets, Cilluffo said.

"One wants to string [suspects] up and the other wants to string them along," he said.