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FBI to maintain separate information analysis center

The FBI will maintain a separate information-analysis center even with the creation of a Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), Attorney General John Ashcroft told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

Though the integration center is expected to be a hub for analyzing all terrorist information collected by the government, Ashcroft said the FBI would continue to conduct separate analysis while gathering and distributing information with the center. "The FBI will maintain its own analysis, but it will provide information to the TTIC," Ashcroft told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees his department.

Ashcroft said the TTIC is on track to begin operating May 1, and it would receive $50 million in fiscal 2004. He was unclear about which appropriations bill would provide the funding. He said the center initially would operate within the CIA, but a new, independent facility eventually would house the center, which will fuse FBI and CIA counter-terrorism efforts.

Ashcroft also outlined the Justice Department's budget request for fiscal 2004 in an initial statement of testimony to the committee. He did not read that testimony, however, instead offering a long opening statement about the department's success in preventing terrorist activity over the past year and in preventing and prosecuting other crimes within the United States.

He noted that the emergency funding request for fiscal 2003 includes $500 million for Justice to spend on, among other things, the work necessary to issue warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

In his statement, Ashcroft said the Bush administration has proposed providing the FBI's counterterrorism program with $7.1 million to facilitate the collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence gathered through the interception of e-mails of known and suspected terrorists.

The administration also is seeking $844,000 to support a "robust analytical capacity" to enable the FBI to better predict national security vulnerabilities and targets. And it is requesting $4.6 million for a "communications application tool capable of conducting sophisticated link analysis on high volumes of telephone calls and other relational data."

For the task force the agency created with state and local law enforcement agencies to track foreign terrorists, Justice requested $5 million to create an information-sharing initiative. And it is seeking $47.5 million for personnel and technology upgrades to the FBI's Visa Identification Terrorist Automated Lookout System, including the creation of a system to electronically process fingerprints of visa applicants overseas.

The FBI also asked for $12 million to expand the Regional Information Sharing Systems linking state and local law enforcement officials with the FBI.

In addition, Ashcroft said Justice is developing an integrated wireless network with the Treasury and Homeland Security departments to ensure that law enforcement and public-safety agencies can communicate if there is a future terrorist incident.