U.S. Intelligence Burdened by Same Handicaps That Failed the Nation on 9/11

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., in an ongoing exchange with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, said Tuesday questions remain about the control, composition and, therefore, the effectiveness of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was established by the Administration to coordinate intelligence information to prevent future terrorist attacks within U.S. borders.

In a letter to Ridge dated July 1, 2003, Lieberman expressed uncertainty about who is “ultimately responsible” for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information from the federal intelligence community, homeland security officials, and state and local law enforcement.

The Homeland Security Act, he said, “places primary responsibility and accountability for analysis of domestic intelligence information” within the Homeland Security Department’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate.

“Your post, Mr. Secretary, was intended to be the most senior official in our government responsible for protecting our homeland,” Lieberman wrote. Instead, he continued, the end result “is an intelligence apparatus burdened by the same handicaps that failed the nation on September 11. It remains an exclusive club, insufficiently interwoven with counter terrorist experts and experienced officials outside the intelligence community, particularly those among state and local law enforcement. And yet each component remains secure in the knowledge that it retains control over the intelligence it obtains and analyzes.”

Lieberman’s letter comes as the latest rejoinder in an ongoing dialog with Ridge over the Administration’s failure to implement provisions of the Homeland Security Act with regard to the management of intelligence information.

In April, he wrote to both Ridge and President Bush outlining a series of concerns he had about TTIC’s ability to overcome the problems that have long plagued the intelligence community. Ridge’s response, dated June 17, 2003, left a number of Lieberman’s questions unanswered..

“Most importantly,” Lieberman wrote, “I still do not know who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that information from the CIA, the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and other homeland security officials is gathered and analyzed for a comprehensive, 360-degree perspective in order to prevent future terrorist attacks… ”

Lieberman expressed continued concern that TTIC remains isolated from other federal, as well as state and local entities. It was that isolation and failure to share information that contributed to our inability to prevent the attacks of September 11th.

He also said it is unclear how experts outside of the federal intelligence community would provide or receive information to and from TTIC. And he expressed continued concern about whether information analysts – either at TTIC or the Department of Homeland Security – would have unfettered access to the information they need to adequately protect the country.

“It is my firm view that a counter terrorist architecture for our homeland’s domestic security must have a rock solid and unified foundation and be guided by the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Lieberman wrote. “Operating at least four centers of intelligence analysis (even though one is supposedly a joint venture) with highly selective membership, without clear responsibility and authority in the Secretary of Homeland Security, may not give us the desired and necessary powerful counter punch that we need to blunt and eliminate terrorist threats to our homeland. This approach, rather than that prescribed in the Homeland Security Act, may well leave our nation unnecessarily at risk.”