Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 28, 2006

Congress looks at intelligence and border security

Filed under: Border Security,Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christian Beckner on June 28, 2006

The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing today to look at the role of intelligence in the border security mission. The prepared testimony by DHS chief intelligence officer Charlie Allen, intelligence officers from the Coast Guard, ICE, and CBP, and outside experts Michael Cutler and Michael O’Hanlon. is available on the committee website. GovExec provides a good summary of the hearing:

The Homeland Security Department’s chief intelligence officer acknowledged Wednesday that the department is still in the “early stages” of developing a strategic plan for capturing and disseminating intelligence along the nation’s borders, an admission that drew immediate criticism from Democrats who said such a plan should have been done years ago.

“I think we are in the early stages of developing an overall strategic picture and landscape,” Charles Allen told the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee during a hearing. “I agree with you that we should have done this earlier.”

Allen said one of his top priorities since joining the department last fall has been developing “an intelligence campaign plan” for the borders that includes surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. “We have a good deal to do but I have some good ideas about how to get this done,” he said. Allen was not asked about and did not offer a timeline for when the plan would be completed.

….Responding to a question, Allen acknowledged that Customs and Border Protection officers do not readily have access to all databases that might contain information on persons of interest. But he added that the agency could access those databases if it wanted.

This is a critically important part of the border security challenge, especially the element of it that I consider to be preeminently important: stopping potential terrorists from entering the country. If border agents can’t access the nation’s reservoir of intelligence, then that’s a serious gap in our border security. The issue doesn’t have the same political impact as physical or manpower investments on the border, and it sometimes gets lost in the broader debate, so I’m glad to see Congress focusing on the issue today.

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