Magazine article National Defense

Information Barriers Hamper Anti-Terror Efforts

Magazine article National Defense

Information Barriers Hamper Anti-Terror Efforts

Article excerpt

The inability to flow information from federal agencies down to local law enforcement could hamper the government's ability to root out terrorists according to a General Accounting Office survey released in August.

Of the 40 states that responded to the agency's survey, only 35 percent reported that "sharing with the federal government was effective or very effective."

No level of government was satisfied that it received enough information, according to GAO. For example, 98 percent of the large cities that responded said they need information on the location of known terrorists. But only 15 percent of the respondents sad they actually receive this information, said GAO.

In addition, no level of government was satisfied with the timeliness, accuracy or relevancy of the information it received, Information passed on to states and cities about threats often is untimely, inaccurate or irrelevant, the GAO found.

The federal government continues to perceive the fight against terrorism as its responsibility, the report said. "That belief potentially undermines the unity of effort between federal, state and city governments needed to effectively secure the homeland," said GAO. "Consequently, the federal government still has not established comprehensive policies or procedures to effectively integrate state and city governments into the information sharing process or even routinely recognize their role [in] the process."

A majority of states and cities surveyed said they did not have the opportunity to be involved in national policy making on information sharing, said GAO.

"As a result, opportunities are routinely missed to engage state and city law enforcement officers in obtaining ,and providing the federal government with information that could be vital in the war against terrorism," said GAO.

Securing classified information was one example cited by federal agencies in preventing them from sharing threat information with states and cities. However, perceived barriers can be overcome, said GAO. For example, local law enforcement routinely handles sensitive information in criminal cases.

Another issue limiting the sharing of information is the problem of acquiring new technologies. …

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