UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
Washington (UPI) Apr 25, 2006
U.S. intelligence tsar John Negroponte "is winning his battles" to boost information-sharing, a senior U.S. official said.
Dale Meyerrose, the official in charge of information technology for the sprawling collection of U.S. agencies managed by Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence, is defending the Bush administration's efforts to improve the sharing of vital counter-terrorism information.
Meyerrose told United Press International that the new director's office was "winning battles" over information sharing every day, but he acknowledged that the larger "war" -- to create the policy, institutional and cultural changes needed -- continues.
"We're still at the crawl or walk stage," he said.
The need for law enforcement and other government agencies to "join the dots" by sharing counter-terrorism information was identified early on as a must-learn lesson from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The 19 hijackers were able to carry out those attacks, killing more than 2,800 Americans, despite the fact that they lived openly but largely illegally in the United States, had several interactions with police, and that the CIA knew two of them were linked to al-Qaida.
Last week, congressional investigators slammed the intelligence-sharing effort, which they said had -- more than four years later -- still produced no government-wide policy on the issue.
Meyerrose said that the first set of such policies, six standards for the information sharing environment mandated by congress in 2004, would shortly be approved by the White House's interagency Information Sharing Council.
He said they would be "technical and procedural standards, governing how decisions are made, how they are vetted, how feedback is given."
He called the new standards "foundational... the basics of getting started," adding that the impact would be small at first. "The philosophy is: thinking big, starting small, scaling fast," he said.
Recent bureaucratic victories have been "small, but asymmetric in impact," Meyerrose said. He cited an incident earlier this month where officials from the office had ordered agencies to change their information-handling procedures.
Meyerrose said that a series of planning events related to avian flu were being conducted. He declined to give further details, but said that to facilitate the planning, "We set up Web portals at each level of classification."
He said the portals were modeled on the blog-type pages used by researchers or programmers collaborating online -- with everyone reading each other's information and analysis, and able to comment on it.
Meyerrose said there were portals for each of two levels of classified material and one for so-called sensitive-but-unclassified matter. At the higher levels, more sensitive material was available, but the idea was to have -- as far as possible -- a common picture for all collaborators.
"The analysts came to us and said 'We have a problem...' 95 percent of what they thought they were sharing was not getting out there," Meyerrose said.
It turned out the reason was the inclusion of what he called "ORCON-type elements" in the headers and footers of some documents. ORCON means "originator controlled" -- a designation which prevents anyone distributing or passing along a document without the permission of the agency that produced it.
"Within 24 hours, this office issued written instructions to all the agencies involved that they must change their procedures and we provided technical specifications for that to happen," said Meyerrose.
Meyerrose acknowledged there would be more battles ahead. "It's going to happen again -- as a matter of fact, if happens almost every day."
He said that was because technology was the least of the problems faced by reformers seeking to improve information sharing -- policy and culture were much bigger challenges.
"We in the intelligence business have... always had the attitude that someone had to first prove they have the right to get (information)," he said.
Meyerrose said the new principle was "write to release."
"This principle means that we have to consciously... ensure that what we write gets the widest possible dissemination."
Policy leadership was essential to drive that kind of cultural change, he said.
The DNI's office was in the "process of finalizing" its first "joint instruction" with the Department of Defense on information sharing, Meyerrose said. He said more joint instructions with "other parts of the government" would follow.
Meyerrose said that such changes were necessarily "incremental."
One example was "a different risk management calculation with regard to security in sharing information with coalition partners," he said.
In the past, such decisions had proceeded by consensus, in the case of these reassessments, "there was strong non-concurrence" by one or more of the agencies involved "all the way up to decision."
Meyerrose declined to provide the name the countries involved but said there were three of them, one where the new policy was in place, "one in process that is nearly complete, and one a couple of weeks away."
Source: United Press International
Lessons From Iraq Are Critical To Future Planning
Washington (UPI) Apr 25, 2006
As recognition of the U.S. defeat in Iraq spreads, so also does the process of sweeping up the debris. Both civilian observers and a few voices inside the military have begun the "lessons learned" business, trying to figure out what led to our defeat so that we do not repeat the same mistakes. That is the homage we owe to this war's dead and wounded. To the degree we do learn important lessons, they will not have suffered in vain, even though we lost the war.
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