WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Tuesday – in an ongoing effort to rectify disconnects within the intelligence community exposed by the September 11 terrorist attacks – asked President Bush to reconsider the formation of a terrorist threat coordination center outside the Department of Homeland Security. In a series of three homeland defense oversight letters, Lieberman also sought stronger leadership from the Administration in ensuring that state and local first responders have the interoperable communications equipment they need to manage a disaster effectively and he asked the General Accounting Office to inquire whether the Transportation Security Administration is on schedule in implementing a number of airport security precautions.
The letters – which lay out a handful of serious shortcomings in the Department’s first 100 days – mark a continuing effort by Lieberman to oversee the federal government’s progress in securing the safety of all Americans against terrorist attack. Lieberman has criticized the location and command structure of the Bush Administration’s Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), proposed by the President in his January State of the Union address, and set to open its doors for business May 1, under the command of the CIA. The Homeland Security Act, which established the Department of Homeland Security, called for an intelligence consolidation center within the Department to receive and disseminate information to and from the major federal intelligence agencies, state and local law enforcement authorities, and the thousands of Department of Homeland Security border agents, customs officials, and members of the Coast Guard monitoring the movement of people and goods at the nation’s borders.
“The President’s decision to create such a center, designed to gather all counter terrorism information and intelligence in one place, was a positive step in our government’s war on terrorism,” Lieberman wrote in his letter to Bush. “However, the implementation of the center – specifically its location, composition, and control – appears to be misguided and potentially calamitous… ”
Lieberman said the central problem in locating TTIC under the CIA is that the cultural and institutional rivalries between the CIA and FBI, exposed after the September 11 attacks, will remain in place. Furthermore, the center will be isolated from daily homeland security efforts at the local, state, and federal levels, and it will not be accountable to the nation’s top ranking homeland security official.
“Rather than increasing the effectiveness and clarity of intelligence integration in our government as the Homeland Security Act intended, this decision risks increasing bureaucracy and confusion,” Lieberman said.
A similar letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Ridge. In another letter to Ridge, Lieberman called for more aggressive leadership in getting state and local first responders the equipment they need so they can communicate across jurisdictions and professional disciplines in the event of a disaster. The success of the Department’s Project SAFECOM has been sharply questioned, even by the Department’s own information officer, despite Ridge’s insistence “significant progress” has been made.
“The federal government must exercise the primary leadership role and be prepared to provide a significant share of the resources,” Lieberman wrote. “Despite your earlier claims about the progress under Project SAFECOM, I do not believe that the Administration has focused sufficient leadership nor has it prop