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Localities Operate Intelligence Centers To Pool Terror Data

Outside Baltimore, in the Maryland fusion center's
Outside Baltimore, in the Maryland fusion center's "watch section," watch commander Jeffrey L. Wobbleton, right, speaks with one of the working specialists. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

Thomas E. McNamara, ISE manager under the director of national intelligence, said the centers will be state-driven and "primarily analytical."

Amid such assurances, it remains unclear just how much fusing of information is going on day to day.

Existing efforts are insufficient and to blame for "mixed and at times competing messages" from U.S. officials and limited contributions from state and local leaders, Townsend wrote.

For example, New York City leaders warned of "a specific threat" to the city's transit systems in October 2005, which federal officials simultaneously deemed "noncredible." Meanwhile, U.S. officials say information flowing from local and state agencies is often of limited use.

An April report by the National Governors Association found that dissatisfaction with federal information-sharing was growing among state homeland security directors, with 60 percent unhappy about the specificity of intelligence. In congressional hearings, state officials have complained about a lack of federal security clearances and about overlapping, outdated intelligence databases.

In response, U.S. officials are vowing to speed background checks and to send Homeland Security intelligence officers to work at 18 state and local fusion centers in 2007 and 35 by 2008.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, would go further. He proposed a new law enforcement assistance program to make intelligence-led policing the 21st-century version of community-oriented policing, into which the federal government has poured $11.3 billion since 1994 to pay for 120,000 local officers.

"The federal government is not reaching out well enough to the intelligence needs of the cop on the beat," Thompson said. "We shouldn't need more blood spilled before we take action necessary to make Americans safer."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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