U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby, Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today commented on issues of information-sharing in the intelligence community:
"The topic of information-sharing has become a central theme of our investigation. I believe there is now unanimity on the need for our government to consolidate and manage ALL available information on the terrorist threat."
"Most Americans would probably be surprised to know that one year after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, there is no federal official - not a single one - to whom the President can turn to ask the simple question: 'What do we know about current terrorist threats against our homeland?'
"No one person or entity has meaningful access to ALL such information the government possesses. No one really knows 'what we know,' and no one is even in a position to go find out. This state of affairs is deplorable, and must end.
"In the information-technology world, we are on the verge of dramatic new breakthroughs in data-mining capabilities that are giving ordinary analysts an extraordinary ability not just to search but to analyze and understand enormous quantities of data from a vast array of different data sources.
"The cutting edge of intelligence analysis, in other words, is likely to be in 'crunching' massive amounts of data on a genuinely all-source basis, drawing upon multiple data-streams in ways never before possible.
"However, as long as we have no one in a position to see all the many data-streams that exist within the federal government - much less those that may also exist in the state and local arena, and in the thriving information economy of the private sector - all of these rapidly-advancing data-mining and analytical tools will be of little use.
"Already, it has been one of our frustrations on this Committee to see the degree to which even agencies that acknowledge the importance of inter-agency electronic information-sharing are each independently pursuing separate 'answers' to this problem.
"Even their responses to the problem of agency-specific 'stovepipes' are too often themselves 'stovepiped' responses. The DCI's own initiative to create an Intelligence Community-wide 'Intelligence Community System for Information Sharing' (ICSIS) depends wholly upon agencies deciding what information they think other agencies' analysts need to know.
"Every agency will be charged with populating its own 'shared space' that will be searchable by cleared and accredited on-line users. No outsider, it seems, would ever have access to an agency's real databases. This is exactly the type of thinking that we must purge from our Intelligence Community.
"We need new ideas and a genuine appreciation in the Community's top management of information technology and how it can be exploited to attack this target.
"As we saw last week, Mr. Chairman, the most innovative ideas put forth by our witnesses were 'more money' and "more people." Unless we see some new thinking and leadership within the Intelligence Community, Mr. Chairman, I contend that 'more money' and 'more people' will get us 'more of the same.' That we do not need.
"I'd like to submit for the record an article by Stan Hawthorne entilted - 'Knowledge Related to a Purpose: Data-Mining to Detect Terrorism.' This article effectively discusses the need to integrate our information systems and I commend it to my colleagues."