By Jim Kouri
While the news media are calling the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives “a do-nothing Congress, the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence this week passed H.R. 2764, the “WMD Intelligence and information Sharing Act of 2011,” and H.R. 3140, the “Mass Transit Intelligence Prioritization Act.”
The bipartisan supported H.R. 2764, which was introduced by the Subcommittee’a Chairman, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to codify important and existing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) intelligence and information-sharing practices of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
The bill requires that DHS coordinate with others in the Intelligence Community in its efforts, and that information analyzed by DHS be shared with State, local, and tribal law enforcement and emergency response teams.
“As the former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, I prosecuted terrorism cases that required real time, critical intelligence. I understand the value of intelligence sharing. By promoting effective sharing, this common sense legislation aids in our effort to protect against a potential WMD attack, ensuring that intelligence analysis and dissemination regarding dangerous weapons — specifically chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear — continue to be a priority for our nation,” Meehan stated.
The stated purpose of H.R. 2764 is to ensure the maintenance of adequate WMD technical expertise in the DHS’ intelligence division and sufficient intelligence sharing among homeland security organizations with regards to terrorists planning to perpetrate attacks containing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials.
The bill also supports homeland security intelligence that focuses on global infectious disease, public health, food, agricultural and veterinary issues. Sustained and effective intelligence sharing will better support the State, local, and tribal authorities as well as other groups with a stake in national security matters dealing with weapons of mass destruction.
The legislation stipulates that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis should work together with other leading homeland security resources to successfully gather the most accurate intelligence sharing techniques and information regarding WMD.
This provision was included in both “The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011” (H.R. 2356), co-sponsored by Meehan and Full Committee Chairman Peter T. King, and the “Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2012” (H.R. 3116), passed by the Committee by a bipartisan vote on October 13.
H.R. 3140 amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize the assignment of officers and analysts to certain State and urban area fusion centers to enhance the security of mass transit systems.
A fusion center is a collaborative effort to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. Recognizing that fusion centers are a mechanism for information sharing, the federal government — including the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE), who has primary responsibility for government-wide information sharing, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) — is taking steps to partner with fusion centers.
Most states and many local governments have established fusion centers to address gaps in information sharing. Fusion centers across the country vary in their stages of development — from operational to early in the planning stages.
Officials in 43 of the centers Government Accountability Office analysts contacted described their centers as operational, and 34 of these centers had opened since January 2004. Law enforcement entities, such as state police or state bureaus of investigation, are the lead or managing agencies in the majority of the operational centers
H.R. 2764 and H.R. 3140 will be sent to the Full Committee for consideration, according to a Congressional press statement.
“A major difference between a GOP-led House and a Democrat-led House is: The Democrats investigate our intelligence officers, our cops, our soldiers and our tactics, whereas the Republicans investigate terrorists, those who support terrorists, and those who wish to harm Americans and destroy America,” said former military intelligence officer and police commander Stanley Rodgers.