DHS wants local, state officials in the dark on threats

We already know that the Department of Homeland Security just doesn’t want to play well with others. In this case, others are state and local governments. DHS also doesn’t want to share, and what it doesn’t want to share is critical threat information.

The first responders to any real threat (not to mention non-threats and completely imaginary threats) are going to be those at the local and state level, not the federal level. Yet it’s the federal government which has all the information on possible threats at the local and state level. And historically it hasn’t wanted to share this information, and when it has shared the information, it’s typically done so in a less-than-helpful manner.

And now DHS wants to keep local and state officials out of an information sharing unit designed specifically to get them accurate threat information in a timely manner. It seems that they’re even willing to defy President Bush.

Historically, information has often been closely held at the federal level until the last minute. Sometimes, alerts come in the middle of the night, making it difficult for mayors and others to respond before the morning rush hour, said David Sobczyk, a commander with the Chicago Police Department.

“There has to be a leap of faith” to trust local officials with sensitive information, he said.

A White House directive in November, issued with President Bush’s approval, was designed to fix these problems.

It called for Homeland Security to create a unit that would assemble terrorism reports specifically for state and local officials. The unit, which could include two or three state or local officials, would issue alerts and identify information important to state and local officials, according to a Homeland Security document obtained by The Sun. — Baltimore Sun

All the other federal agencies in the unit have no problem including local and state officials. It’s just DHS, whose lame excuse is that including them would create “unnecessary confusion” in the process of packaging information. Homeland Security said it could adequately represent the interests of local and state officials. But local agencies need different information and use it differently than the federal government.

Homeland Security officials had no comment, of course.

Local officials can’t be trusted with information on potential threats to their cities, but if you withhold it from them, you risk another catastrophe. So instead, you send it to them at three in the morning, so if something does happen at six, the federal bureaucrats have their asses covered. So much for improved intelligence sharing.

As I recall, two of the important lessons learned in kindergarten were how to share and how to play well with others. It seems that the Department of Homeland Security still hasn’t learned these important post-9/11 lessons.

One thought on “DHS wants local, state officials in the dark on threats

  • February 4, 2007 at 6:59 pm
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    If DHS wants to learn how to do “inter-governmental cooperation” right, they ned look no further than the National Weather Service.

    As Chair of a Board of Selectmen in a northeast community during the Blizzard of 1993, I can attest to the Weather Service’s professionlism and information-sharing mentality. The local weather bureau called EACH COMMUNITY, including my little 2000-person town, to alert them of a coference call briefing on the coming storm and its potential effects. They had the Senior elected official’s phone number AT HOME. (I know ‘ they called me!)

    During the call, they had the electric company, phone company, state departments of transportation and state police contacts on the phone, ready to answer questions.

    During the storm, I had a SKYWARN spotter assigned to the emergency operations center (better known as “the fire station”) to relay real-time information from the NWS.

    All in all, it was a tour-de-force of effective national support. I KNEW long before the storm started that I should “not expect State help for 24-48 hours, and not expect Federal help for a week.”. But I also knew well in advance what was coming, and ‘ despite losing power to my rural town for three days ‘ had no loss of life, and no major incidents or issues.

    So ‘ when it comes to the Feds, whom I often loathe for their incompetence and stovepiping, I say “Let the Weather Service do it!!”

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