CIA, FBI directors promise to share data with Homeland Security Department

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The directors of the FBI and CIA are assuring lawmakers that the proposed Homeland Security Department would have their agencies' full support and access to the intelligence it needs.

CIA Director George Tenet and FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that proposed restrictions on the new department's access to raw intelligence wouldn't affect its operations.

``I am committed to assuring that the new department receives all of the relevant terrorist-related data that's available,'' Tenet said Thursday.

Under Bush's plan, the Homeland Security Department would have an analysis division that would receive intelligence from the CIA, FBI and other agencies. Some lawmakers say that plan is insufficient to correct the intelligence deficiencies and interagency communication problems that became evident with the Sept. 11 attacks.

Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., called the Homeland Security plan ``a helpful start'' but expressed concerns about the limits on raw intelligence _ information that hasn't yet been analyzed. ``It does not give the secretary the authority necessary to carry out the full range of his or her duties,'' he said.

Tenet said the new agency would become part of ``an automatic flow'' of the CIA's finished reports and analyses about potential terrorist threats gathered worldwide. This also includes information from the eavesdropping National Security Agency, defense intelligence agencies and other sources.

``There is a very rich body of information that flows already today,'' Tenet said.

If the homeland security secretary wanted to know a human source's identity or precisely how a piece of communication was intercepted, Tenet said, ``That's an instance where I would want to talk to the president.''

Mueller told the senators the new secretary would get ''99.9 percent'' of the FBI's domestic intelligence through the bureau's reports. What would not be immediately available, he said, are such things as wiretap transcripts, bank records, names of people in an ongoing investigation or grand jury proceedings.

``All of that I consider to be raw data,'' Mueller said.

But Sen. Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, later told the committee those limits were unacceptable.

They would leave the new department ``dependent upon the goodwill of the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies and hostage to their perhaps incompletely informed or self-interested judgments about what the Homeland Security analysts really need to know,'' said Shelby, R-Ala.

Some lawmakers have suggested that CIA and FBI anti-terrorism units should become part of the Homeland Security Department.

But Tenet and Mueller said it was important for their agencies to remain where they are.

Mueller said the FBI's anti-terrorism work is intertwined with its other law-enforcement activities aimed at preventing crimes and prosecuting them.

Shifting the counterterrorism division ``at this critical moment would disrupt our ongoing battle against terrorism,'' he said.

The distribution of intelligence was also a concern at a hearing Friday of the House Armed Services panel on terrorism. Navy and Marine officials said their personnel in Afghanistan have been receiving good intelligence, but not as quickly as they would like.

``We want it almost instantaneously,'' said Marine Lt. Gen. Emil R. Bedard, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.

Rear Adm. Joseph J. Krol Jr., assistant deputy chief of naval operations, said he would like to see combat planes have more immediate access to data from unmanned Predator surveillance planes. ``We have to be more nimble, quicker,'' he said.

At Thursday's Governmental Affairs hearing, Tenet and Mueller assured lawmakers that their agencies have made strides in sharing information. Mueller said ``old rivalries'' between the FBI and CIA are evaporating and they brief Bush together every morning at the White House about terrorist threats. They also have more agents working together around the world than ever before.

Also Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill creating a four-year, $13.7 billion program to better prepare local police, firefighters and others to cope with terror acts, including those involving weapons of mass destruction.