WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday expressed pleasant surprise at President Bush’s State of the Union proposal to create a central analysis center for intelligence relating to terrorist attacks against the United States. But he expressed concern about locating this interagency fusion effort under the CIA. Lieberman had proposed a similar analysis center in the homeland security legislation he stewarded through the Governmental Affairs Committee last year, as a way of addressing one of the most glaring weaknesses in our domestic defenses exposed by the September 11th terrorist attacks – a failure among the intelligence community to share information.
“I have seen no details of the President’s proposal,” Lieberman said, “but it is, in essence, what I have been advocating for well over a year. This would be the place where the dots are connected, to give our government a better chance of uncovering terrorist threats and preventing attacks. This center should have been in place long before now.”
Lieberman had proposed an independent Intelligence Directorate, under the Secretary of Homeland Security, to be staffed by analysts on loan from the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies, and given maximum access to the information about all terrorist threats collected by those agencies.
The President opposed that approach last year. Instead, the administration insisted on focusing the new department’s intelligence role on protecting critical infrastructure, rather than on performing analysis primarily designed to preempt and disrupt attacks before they occur. In the end, a compromise was reached, creating a single directorate that would analyze all terrorist threats as well as assess vulnerabilities to the infrastructure. Until the President’s State of the Union address, the administration has insisted on implementing its original concept of primarily protecting critical infrastructure. Bush said Tuesday night that the new analysis center would answer to the Director of Central Intelligence and would be composed of analytical units from the FBI and the CIA. While supportive of the need for a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, Lieberman disputed the wisdom of Bush’s configuration.
“The historic rivalries and lack of cooperation between the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies is a major problem we must overcome,” he said. “Placing this fusion center in the new Department would ensure analysis from an independent entity outside of the existing rivalries. The President’s approach perpetuates a major part of the problem. He has been altogether too reluctant to challenge the status quo in the intelligence community and the FBI.”