Monday, September 12, 2011

House Passes HR 1892 – Intelligence Authorization

On Friday the House of Representatives passed HR 1892, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, by a substantially bipartisan vote of 384 to 14. Needless to say, most of this bill is classified and not subject to public or blogger review, but some of the provision are unclassified.

Normally I wouldn’t address an intelligence authorization bill in this blog, but there are two items in this bill that might indirectly affect the chemical security community. The first makes the DHS intelligence apparatus officially part of the ‘intelligence community’ and second addresses security of railroads.

Intelligence Community

Section 411 of the bill amends §3(4) of the National Security Act of 1947 {50 U.S.C. 401a(4)} by adding the Office of Intelligence and Analysis of the Department of Homeland Security to the list of agencies officially considered to be an ‘element of the Intelligence Community’. If this provision remains in the bill through final passage, it would mean that it took longer than 10 years from the date of the 9-11 attacks to make homeland security officially (if probably still not actually) a fully functioning part of the intelligence community.

Is it any wonder that we still don’t have the full sharing of intelligence information that would help to prevent attacks like those that formally introduced this country to the community of international terrorism?

Actually, this inclusion of OIA in the intelligence community was further enhanced (slightly to be sure) by the adoption of an amendment offered by Rep. Keating (D,MA) by voice vote. That amendment would add a section to Title V of the bill that would express the ‘sense of Congress’ that the intelligence community “should continue to integrate and leverage fusion centers to enlist all of the intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security capabilities of the United States in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution to prevent acts of terrorism against the United States” (pg 16 of the Rules Committee Report on H. Res. 392).

A ‘sense of Congress’ declaration has no legal standing, but it does provide notice to the intelligence community that the check writers think that the fusion centers and OIA should be taken seriously.

Railroad Security

Another ‘sense of Congress’ amendment was offered by Rep. Carney (D,DE) regarding the ‘priority of railway transportation security’ was adopted by bipartisan vote of 303 to 92. That amendment to Title V of the bill concluded that “railway transportation security (including subway transit security) should continue to be prioritized in the critical infrastructure threat assessment developed by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and included in threat assessment budgets of the intelligence community” (pg 15).

Given the history of terrorist attacks against transit systems the primary focus of this amendment was almost certainly intended to be on passenger rail systems not freight rail. But, given the extent and importance of freight rail and the inherent risks associated {particularly toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemical transport} with it, one would like to think that the intelligence community would certainly include freight rail threat assessments in its consideration of ‘railway transportation security’.

While identifying potential terrorist attacks in the planning stages is generally considered to be the best security against such attacks, it is particularly important in defending against attacks against the rail sector. The physical layout of rail systems makes it practically impossible to use physical security means to protect against attacks on this transportation mode. The only effective method of protection is advance detection and that is the job of the intelligence community.

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