Review of Domestic Sharing of Counterterrorism Information, March 2017

Review of Domestic Sharing of Counterterrorism Information, March 2017

Executive Summary

Fifteen years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the terrorist threat remains in the United States and abroad, as evidenced by recent attacks in Paris, France; San Bernardino, California; Brussels, Belgium; Orlando, Florida; and Nice, France. The U.S.’s national security depends on the ability to share the right information with the right people at the right time. This requires sustained and responsible collaboration among federal, state, local, and tribal entities, as well as the private sector and international partners.

In response to a request from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Offices of Inspector General (OIG) of the Intelligence Community (IC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted a review of the domestic sharing of counterterrorism information. The OIGs concluded that the partners in the terrorism-related
Information Sharing Environment components of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), DHS, DOJ, and their state and local partners are committed to sharing counterterrorism information. The partners’ commitment to protecting the nation is illustrated by the actions taken before, during, and following terrorism-related incidents, as well as by programs and initiatives designed to improve sharing of counterterrorism information.

However, the OIGs also identified several areas in which improvements could enhance information sharing.

To share information effectively, the federal, state, and local entities actively involved in counterterrorism efforts must understand each other’s roles,  responsibilities, and contributions, especially with the involvement of multiple agencies, such as the DOJ’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DHS’ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in complex investigations. Updating or establishing new information sharing agreements among such entities should enhance coordination and collaboration, and reaffirm and formalize the roles and responsibilities of partners in the current information sharing environment. Similarly, although there is a national information sharing strategy, its implementation has been viewed to be uneven. The OIGs believe that the ODNI, DHS, and DOJ should review the interagency information sharing memorandum of understanding (MOU) and take necessary actions to update intelligence information sharing standards and processes among the departments, which we believe would result in better implementation of the strategy.

The OIGs also identified improvements in various practices and processes of the partners involved in counterterrorism. At DHS, a lack of unity in its Intelligence Enterprise, issues in the field related to staffing and access to classified systems and facilities, as well as problems with intelligence reporting processes, have made the DHS Intelligence Enterprise less effective and valuable to the IC than it could be. DOJ can improve its counterterrorism information sharing efforts by developing and implementing a consolidated internal DOJ strategy, and evaluating the continued need and most effective utilization for the United States Attorney’s Offices’ Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) meetings. Further, the FBI should spur participation associated with Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) and improve its efforts to obtain partners’ input in the process of identifying and prioritizing counterterrorism threats. Within the ODNI, the Domestic DNI Representative program is hindered by large geographic regions, as well as the lack of a clear strategic vision and guidance. In addition, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Domestic Representative program, although well received in the field, has also struggled to sufficiently cover its regions. At the state and local level, due to unpredictable federal support, fusion centers are focused on sustaining operations rather than enhancing capabilities. Further, varying requirements for state and local security clearances sponsored by federal agencies can impede access to classified systems and facilities.

Our review resulted in 23 recommendations to help improve the sharing of counterterrorism information and ultimately, enhance the Nation’s ability to
prevent terrorist attacks. We discuss our findings in detail in the Findings and Recommendations section of the report.

The Investigation

 Review of Domestic Sharing of Counterterrorism Information, March 2017 [85 Pages, 6.7MB]

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