WASHINGTON – Lines of communication between intelligence agencies and personnel necessary to protect U.S. borders against terrorism have remained inadequate,a senior Department of Homeland Security official told members of the House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday.
This revelation comes nearly five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Charles E. Allen,chief intelligence officer of DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis,admitted that ties between intelligence agencies should have started to improve immediately,but he could not offer a reason for the delay.
“We should've done it earlier,but now we are vigorously working on it,” he said.
Despite this,Allen,who was appointed to the position nine months ago,assured the committee of his office's progress.
“We have worked on concrete measures to deliver discrete intelligence to the men and women securing borders. We also have been developing a phased framework for sustainable intelligence support to border security,” he said.
However,he said that these measures take time. “Securing lengthy borders is a challenge,” he said. “We need good intelligence and an analytical base. We are looking at the border holistically.”
Besides refining intelligence techniques,other witnesses admitted the need to increase the number of personnel working on border patrols,an issue about which many members of the committee expressed concern.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren,D-Calif.,asked officials if they believed 200 border officers were adequate to protect U.S. borders from terrorist threats.
L. Thomas Bortmus,executive director of the Office of Intelligence,admitted that it was not.
However,he did say that all U.S. Custom and Border Protection patrols understand their “priority mission is to prevent terrorists and their weaponry from entering the United States.”
A U.S. Coast Guard official also admitted the need for more employees in the field.
“We do have a work need. We've done the best we can and we're dedicated to help,” said James Sloan,assistant commandant for intelligence and criminal investigations.
Sloan pointed to intelligence as the key behind Coast Guard mission successes.
“The role of intelligence is to provide timely,accurate and actionable information so that decisions can be made and actions take that support operational commander. Significant challenges remain and much work needs to be done,but we are focused on the right priorities,” he said.
“Who is to blame,and what went wrong?” asked Rep. Robert Simmons,R-Conn.
“We're all to blame,” he said. “We need to start being imaginative and that's the challenge. We need to apply economics and intelligence to the problem.”