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Haste Makes Waste

Nearly five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security continue to clash over who is in charge of coordinating and vetting information on terrorism. As a result, state and local authorities continue to get conflicting or incomplete information – sometimes none at all – on threats inside the United States, officials say.

The feud over control of the information caused federal agencies last week to miss a White House deadline for outlining how it should be distributed to state and local authorities, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said yesterday.

Sloppy legislation in a rush to show progress. Fair enough, people wanted quick action. The bigger issue: none of these jack-holes can get past the fact that the intention was to make things better, not upset rice bowls. Lessons to be learned:

  • The Intel war as two fronts; your “neighbor” across town takes the first magazine, while the actual enemy is engaged much later in the battle. The slightest edge that can be gained by pointing to written authorities means more money, people and other resources. That you might be the wrong agency to take the lead matters not one bit. Success in an internal political fight is easy; success against terrorists is hard. Guess which battles get you to the 7th floor faster?
  • The utility of any given piece of information wanes with time. The agency that hordes a given piece of information may be the last place that could make the most use of it. The longer such battles go on the more useless any piece of information from the Federal level becomes. States would do well to network and improve their own sharing efforts at their level and below. With a more comprehensive picture across a broad spectrum they will be able to divine golden nuggets. Beats waiting for a Federal stage coach to deliver one.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.