Fifteen years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted a reorganization of domestic security agencies, those agencies still are not sharing intelligence as smoothly as they could, according to an interagency report released on Friday.
The federal, state, and local entities active in counterterrorism coordinate their efforts using “a national-level, interagency information sharing strategy,” said the report prepared by the inspectors general for the Justice and Homeland Security departments and the intelligence community. But implementation has been uneven.
For example, “there is a lack of unity across the DHS Intelligence Enterprise, problems with the Office of Intelligence and Analysis staffing levels in the field, issues with the internal intelligence product review and approval processes, and difficulty accessing classified systems and facilities in the field,” it said.
During the long preparation of the report, required by three Senate committees, several successes against domestic terrorism unfolded, it noted, among them the arrests of ISIS supporters planning crimes in New York City and Boston. During “recent terrorism-related events, such as those in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Paris, France; and San Bernardino, Calif., fusion centers along with their federal, state, and local partners used the Homeland Security Information Network to share real-time updates, submit and respond to information requests, and support one another nationwide,” the IGs said.
But Homeland Security, Justice and the Office of the Director of National intelligence need to review interagency memoranda of understanding to better reflect presidential strategies on counterterrorism and “foster greater and more-consistent cooperation,” the shared report observed.
Justice, its own IG wrote, “can improve its counterterrorism information sharing efforts by implementing a consolidated internal DOJ strategy and evaluating the continued need and most effective utilization for the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices’ Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council meetings,” the report said. “The FBI should spur participation associated with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces and improve its efforts to obtain partners’ input to the process for identifying and prioritizing counterterrorism threats.”
Within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the domestic program “is hindered by large geographic regions, as well as the lack of a clear strategic vision and guidance” that limits full coverage by the National Counterterrorism Center Domestic Representative Program.
In addition, “varying requirements for state and local security clearances sponsored by federal agencies can impede access to classified systems and facilities.”
The report makes 23 recommendations, among them that the joint players produce a strategic plan based on a review of the president’s strategic plan,” revise territorial regions to align with those of all participating agencies, and more efficiently provide security clearances and reciprocity to state and local personnel.
The agencies agreed.