Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chemical Security Intelligence

Last week the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment of the House Homeland Security Committee conducted a hearing on the “Defining a Homeland Security Intelligence Role”. Chairwoman Harmon invited Bart Johnson, Acting Under Secretary, Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS to explain what I&A is doing to improve the development and sharing of domestic intelligence information to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States. Unfortunately, little was said about sharing information with private sector players like high-risk chemical facilities. Secretary Johnson did make a number of generic comments about sharing information with the private sector. For example, in discussing the I&A Strategic Vision he noted that: “I&A’s primary customers are clear: the Secretary; state and local fusion centers and state, local, territorial, and tribal authorities; Department components; the private sector; the Intelligence Community (IC); and other federal departments and agencies”. Later in discussing State and Local Fusion Centers he stated that “the key for protecting the Homeland from attack is disseminating useable [sic] intelligence and information to our state, local, tribal and private sector partners, getting similar intelligence and information back from those partners for analytic work by I&A and the IC, and ensuring this two-way exchange happens on a real-time basis”. Fusion Centers Do Not Serve Chemical Facilities From the perspective of the security manager at a high-risk chemical facility there has been little done to provide for that two-way exchange of intelligence information. Information sharing procedures have focused on fusion centers established by State or major urban areas governmental organizations. While security officers may work through these fusion centers that does not assure that that is being done on an individual basis with not inter-facility exchange of information. The problem with the ‘local’ fusion center is that it is not focused on chemical facilities. This means that there is likely no one at the center that is specifically trained to identify threats that are directed against chemical facilities. For example the theft of an IED or chemical weapon precursor chemical may not trigger a warning for facilities that possesses/produce the other precursors needed to make that particular weapon. In fact, a conventional fusion center might not recognize that the report of the theft of thiodiglycol, for instance, was a potential predictor of a terrorist attack. Establish a Chemical Fusion Center What is needed is a chemical specific fusion center; an intelligence collection/analysis/dissemination organization that is targeted on chemical security issues. Actually, DHS already has an organization that is at least half-way there, the team that is administering the CFATS program in the Infrastructure Security and Compliance Division (ISCD). Think about it. They already have an extensive data base of chemical facilities that have significant amounts of one or more potential chemical weapons or precursors for chemical weapons on site; the information came from Top Screen Submissions from over 30,000 chemical facilities. They have point of contact information for responsible personnel at each of those sites. They have a secure web site that they could use to disseminate chemical security intelligence information to high-risk facilities. And those high-risk facilities are already trained and certified in procedures for protecting sensitive information. All that is needed is the addition of a chemical intelligence section to ICSD that would collect and process intelligence of about potential threats to chemical facilities. They would need to be tied into the Fusion Center network to collect and share intelligence information from/with that network. ICSD would have to establish a reporting network for collecting intelligence information directly from high-risk chemical facilities. That network could be based on the CSAT reporting system. That CSAT network could also be used to share information with the high-risk facilities. This is the next logical step in the process of developing a security process for high-risk chemical facilities. Unfortunately, the current CFATS regulations do not address this issue. A significant part of the reason for that is the fact that Congress never made any provisions for an intelligence operation to support chemical facility security. This is another over sight that Congress can correct as it moves forward with the approval process for HR 2868, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009.

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