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[infowar.de] WPo, 21.7.03: At Homeland Security, Doubts Arise Over Intelligence
At Homeland Security, Doubts Arise Over Intelligence
By John Mintz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 21, 2003
The intelligence unit of the four-month-old Department of Homeland
Security is understaffed, unorganized and weak-willed in bureaucratic
struggles with other government agencies, diminishing its role in
pursuing terrorists, according to some members of Congress and
independent national security experts.
The vast majority of the department's intelligence analysts lack
computers that are able to receive data classified "top secret" and
above. The department has only three experts on biological terrorism,
a number that lawmakers said falls far short of expectations, given
U.S. officials' grave concern about that kind of attack.
In passing the law establishing the department last year, Congress
intended Homeland Security to be the focal point for handling
intelligence to protect America from terrorists. The current
controversy over its intelligence unit shows how elusive that goal has
become since the Bush administration decided in January that the
agency should not have the standing of the CIA or FBI in analyzing
intelligence about terror threats.
Homeland Security officials acknowledged growing pains in their
intelligence wing, citing the difficulty of creating a full-fledged
member of the U.S. intelligence community from scratch. They also
point out that the head of their intelligence section, retired Marine
Lt. Gen. Frank Libutti, was sworn in only on June 26.
Libutti, the undersecretary in charge of the department's information
analysis and infrastructure protection unit, said that far from
avoiding its key missions, the intelligence wing is "aggressively,
crisply" acting on them. Critics of the department in Congress and
outside government gave Libutti high marks for moving quickly to
address the complaints in his first days on the job.
Frustration over the department's performance in intelligence work
boiled over June 5, when Paul Redmond, then the head of Homeland
Security's intelligence analysis unit, testified before the House
Select Committee on Homeland Security.
Redmond -- a storied 33-year CIA veteran who exposed some of the
nation's most notorious traitors -- angered committee members who said
he seemed cavalier in describing the department's limited progress in
Redmond testified that his office then had only 26 analysts and lacked
the secure communications lines required to receive many classified
CIA and FBI reports. Asked when this would change, he replied, "That
will depend on us getting larger quarters and things like that."
Committee members said they had hoped the department would have
several times that number of analysts by then, or at least a number
closer to the several hundred CIA and FBI terrorism analysts.
Committee members from both parties were incensed by what they viewed
as the intelligence office's lethargy and lack of focus. "I'm going to
be forgiving for a very limited amount of time," Chairman Christopher
Cox (R-Calif.) said in an interview.
Rep. Jim Turner (Tex.), the committee's ranking Democrat, told
President Bush in a letter last month that "a disturbing hearing . . .
revealed that there are serious problems" with the department's
intelligence unit. The department, he wrote, "is not remotely close to
having the tools it needs to meet its critical mandate."
Redmond resigned three weeks after the hearing, citing his health.
Members of Congress passed on their blunt observations to Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who is hastening to address them,
Cox said he was most frustrated that Homeland Security officials have
accepted an arrangement in which the CIA, the FBI and the new
Terrorist Threat Information Center (TTIC) pass intelligence reports
about possible terrorist threats to the department. Homeland Security,
in turn, analyzes the information and transmits warnings to state and
local law enforcement agencies, as well as U.S. industry.
Cox and a number of other members of Congress, such as Sen. Joseph I.
Lieberman (D-Conn.), said that in last year's Homeland Security Act,
which established the department, Congress intended that it would be
responsible for sifting through terrorism intelligence and ensuring it
was acted upon around the country. But now TTIC does most of that,
leaving the department with the smaller job of tightening security on
Main Street, USA.
Last year the White House embraced the view of the CIA and the FBI,
both of which argued that Homeland Security should not routinely
thrust itself into the minutiae of raw intelligence. That position
leaves Homeland Security whipsawed between its congressional overseers
and the White House.
Libutti, who most recently ran the New York City Police Department's
300-person counterterrorism squad, disputed the notion that his shop
is a lightweight undertaking.
"Information analysis and infrastructure protection is the center of
gravity of this entire department," Libutti said. He said he does not
have the luxury of wishing the White House had settled old
intelligence debates differently, adding, "TTIC is a fact on the
Libutti also said he is swiftly recruiting intelligence analysts.
Though there were 26 when Redmond testified last month, there are
almost 50 now, a total that will double again in about seven months,
One ally of Ridge in the administration said the Cox panel has
self-serving reasons to publicize a showdown with the department.
Because some House leaders want Cox's temporary committee terminated,
the panel is "fighting for relevance," the Ridge ally said.
Some in Congress want Ridge to fight harder for his department. He
cultivates an image in the Cabinet as a team player, and insiders said
he has not struggled behind closed doors for more clout in
"The department is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't," said
Richard A. Clarke, who was a top White House counterterrorism official
in the Clinton and Bush administrations until his recent departure to
become a consultant.
"The people in Congress who wrote the legislation creating the
department wanted a 'Team B' analytical capability" that would
reexamine every piece of terrorism intelligence assembled by the CIA
and FBI, he said. But since the White House agreed with the FBI and
CIA, he added, "that department is going to get squeezed and
Ridge has had a hard time recruiting people for the department's
intelligence jobs. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr.,
who runs the secret U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency,
initially agreed to be Ridge's undersecretary for intelligence, but
reversed himself after concluding the job lacked clout and resources,
At the same time, the department is competing for intelligence
professionals with the higher-profile FBI, CIA and TTIC.
Libutti said he and Ridge are addressing another problem the Cox panel
noted: Members of the intelligence team were crammed into offices so
crowded they were not allowed to have many classified computer
terminals. Offices handling sensitive material require spacious
quarters that allow for thick walls and widely spaced computer
Libutti said that in coming days his unit will move into one of the
biggest buildings at the U.S. Navy facility that the Homeland Security
Department occupies in Northwest Washington. He said there will be
space for 250 analysts and links to secure telecommunications lines.
Homeland Security officials also said they connect well with TTIC. Of
TTIC's 75 analysts, seven are from Homeland Security. Ultimately, the
department will have 30 analysts there, out of 300. Libutti said they
have access to all the classified data they need.
William H. Parrish, a retired Marine colonel who recently was named
Redmond's acting successor, said TTIC and Homeland Security meshed
well in May, in the hours after al Qaeda suicide bombers attacked
several western residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing
34. Soon after the synchronized strikes, in which terrorists rammed
security gates, Homeland Security analysts at TTIC prepared warnings
about the gate-crashing that were transmitted to state and local
authorities, he said.
"It's one of our success stories," Parrish said.
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