Pentagon Discusses Civilian Access to Classified Terrorism Data on Military Networks
News in Balance:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2009 -- Pentagon officials will begin sharing access to classified, terrorism-related information stored on the secure Defense Department network with state and local agencies.
Officials will make the information available using a Department of Homeland Security computer network that ties together that department’s intelligence centers nationwide.
Dubbed “fusion centers,” these intelligence-gathering offices reside in most states and larger cities and share information with the federal government, as well as with other agencies in their area. As of this summer, there were 72 such centers.
The two Cabinet departments announced the joint information-sharing venture yesterday.
Only select staff with federal security clearances at the centers will have access to the information, said Air Force Lt. Col. René White, a Defense Department spokeswoman. Homeland Security is responsible for training and ensuring no one accesses the data without the proper clearances, she said.
Also, those cleared will have access only to pre-approved data within the network, she said. Most of the information available will be helpful for analyzing the actions of specific terrorists or terrorist organizations. It also will help local agencies understand terrorist organization hierarchies and establish patterns in their activities, White explained.
The information to be shared does not include any data on any specific U.S. citizen, White said.
The Defense Department now shares similar access to its secure network with the FBI, the CIA and the National Guard. Defense leaders heralded the move as another step in the two departments working together to protect the United States.
"With this action, [the Defense Department] continues its work in supporting states and localities who are leading our efforts to secure the nation from domestic terrorism attacks,” Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, said in a release.
The first fusion centers were put in place in 2006 as a way for federal, state and local agencies to share information on terrorist threats and criminal activity.
(Report by Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service.)