WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Thursday urged the federal government to resist the chilling effect of the disclosure of vast amounts of classified information by Wikileaks and, instead, find ways to protect shared information.
Congress has passed several laws calling on government agencies to share information widely to reverse the information hoarding that partially contributed to the failure to detect the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The federal government has significantly improved information sharing with local, state, and other federal agencies. But the cases of Nidal Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, revealed still-existing gaps in the information sharing effort; and the Wikileaks case exposed weaknesses in the ability of agencies to protect information against unauthorized disclosures by trusted insiders.
“Even as we work to continue improving our information sharing strategies, the Wikileaks case has become a rallying cry for those who would take us back to the days before 9/11 when information was considered the property of the agency that developed it and was not to be shared,” Lieberman said. “We need to be smarter about how information is shared, and appropriately balance security concerns with the legitimate needs of the users of different types of information. Methods and technologies for doing so already exist, and we need to make sure that we utilize them fully across our government.
“We must not walk away from the progress that has made us safer and saved lives. As the Administration contemplates necessary changes to better secure our classified information systems, we must stay firm on one point – agencies cannot be allowed to reverse course and return to a pre-9/11 culture of hoarding information.”
Collins said: “We must not allow the WikiLeaks damage to be magnified twofold. Already, the content of the cables may have compromised our national security. There have been news reports describing the disclosure of these communications as having a chilling effect on our relationships with friends and allies. More important, they also likely have put the lives of some of our citizens, soldiers, and partners at risk. Longer lasting damage could occur if we allow a culture to re-emerge in which each intelligence entity views itself as a separate enterprise within the U.S. counterterrorism structure, with each attempting to protect what it considers its own intellectual property by not sharing with other counterterrorism agencies.”
Witnesses at the hearing discussed the steps that agencies are taking to improve the security of classified systems in order to prevent future leaks, and the challenges associated with making sure that such security improvements do not impair information sharing where it is most needed and warranted, including in support of counterterrorism efforts abroad and in the United States, and in support of overseas military operations.
Witnesses at the hearing were: Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management, Department of State; Teresa M. Takai, Chief Information Officer and Acting Assistant Secretary for Networks and Information Integration, Department of Defense; Thomas A. Ferguson, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence at the Department of Defense; Corin R. Stone, Intelligence Community Information Sharing Executive at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and Kshemendra Paul, Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.