Intelligence agencies accused of hoarding best analysts

Intelligence agencies are withholding their best analysts rather than making them available for the greater homeland security effort, a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks said Tuesday.

The nine agencies that have "fusion" centers intended to bring other agencies' experts together are keeping their best talent in their own centers and sending less-talented analysts to the others' centers, 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick said at a homeland security conference sponsored by the FCW Media Group and E-Gov Institute.

"It's a proliferation of fusion with none of the best people in one place," Gorelick said. "It's a recipe for disaster."

In addition, Gorelick urged reforms to better adopt new security technologies and include the views of the technology industry. "I think the voice of the technology community needs to be heard," said Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. The commission worked "very closely" with the industry in preparing its report, she said.

Gorelick acknowledged that some commission recommendations on technology use are being implemented but said there are outstanding needs.

She called for establishing an overarching information infrastructure for the various intelligence agencies, including a system for sharing data gleaned by each agency, and for clarifying who makes decisions about the information. Currently, no one is overseeing coordination among agencies. "We have a sense of urgency" for an information-sharing architecture, she said.

Gorelick said the new national intelligence director the commission proposed would not be "starting from nowhere" but would have to be built up and could be functional "reasonably quickly." And the national counter-terrorism center could be built on the Terrorist Threat Integration Center created last year.

Agencies have no excuse not to share information now that the USA PATRIOT Act, the anti-terrorism law passed shortly after the terrorist attacks, "obliterated the shield" each agency used to guard information as though it were power, she said.

Gorelick also said agencies need to work more with the private sector. There is "an enormous degree of frustration" in the private sector about getting technologies to the government, she said. "Technologies to protect critical infrastructure are well-advanced beyond what the government can digest," she said. "We need greater leadership there."

Larger firms are frustrated, and some of the smaller firms, which might be the most innovative, are "completely daunted" by the process for offering their technologies, she added.

There also is a "fair amount of frustration" within the federal government in the ability to acquire and use technologies, Gorelick said. For instance, there is no way for government agencies to jointly test a new technology even if it will be used for the same purpose.

Separately, Gorelick said the commission supports the intelligence reform legislation stalled in Congress but would not support further weakening its recommendations. The bill "is not perfect," but it is "a beginning," she said.