State and local officials are protesting efforts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to exclude them from a new unit designed to share information about possible terrorist threats, reports the Baltimore Sun. The information-sharing group, created by a White House directive last year, is designed to send out bulletins to state and local officials when the federal government learns of terrorist activity at home and abroad. Homeland Security officials oppose letting representatives of state and local government serve on the unit that would send out the information because they believe it would confuse the process.
Thomas “Ted” McNamara, who is in charge of information-sharing in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, graded government intelligence-sharing efforts thus far as “just barely ‘fair.'” He added: “We’re certainly not doing ‘good,’ and we’re not doing ‘excellent.'” At his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday to be director of national intelligence, retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell said the culture of intelligence agencies must change to appreciate the needs of police chiefs and their colleagues around the country. “This is a different age and a different time,” he said. Officials said the government is still having trouble getting timely and accurate threat information to states and localities so they can decide how to respond – for example, by sending more officers to an airport or border, dispatching K-9 teams or a bomb squad. Local officials see and use information differently from “somebody who came out of fighting the Cold War against Russia,” said former Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier, who has represented municipal police in discussions over how to assemble the unit.