Hopeful developments in agency cooperation, prevention of attacks

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2002

Monday's announcement of the arrest of an American citizen allegedly plotting with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network to explode a ''dirty'' radioactive device in the United States came at an opportune time for the nation's intelligence community.

Under fire for not ''connecting the dots'' of warnings of potential terrorist attacks prior to Sept. 11, the FBI and CIA are undergoing grilling by congressional intelligence committees.

But the May 8 arrest of Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member also known as Abdullah al-Mujahir, came as a result of connecting the dots of ''multiple, independent, corroborating sources,'' according to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

This is a promising development -- not only because it may have prevented a terrorist attack, but also because it suggests that the nation's intelligence agencies may be overcoming some of their traditional turf rivalries and actually cooperating. Finally.

President Bush's decision last week to ask Congress to create a new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security is overdue and also may be promising. But this will prove useful only if it actually ensures better information sharing and cooperation among the dozen or so federal agencies that have intelligence responsibilities.

That result is not altogether certain, based on what Bush so far is proposing. ...

One of the last things the nation needs is yet another agency collecting raw information. That has not been as much of a shortcoming as analyzing and coordinating the raw data collected. ...

Congress has the responsibility to ensure that the legislation establishing this new department enables it to carry out its mission. And Congress will have to exercise vigilant oversight to ensure that the agency does what it is supposed to do -- not more and certainly not less.

-- Muskogee (Okla.) Daily Phoenix & Times-Democrat June 10

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