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May 18, 2004
Homeland Security Operations Center Makes A Difference

According to the Washington Post, the new Homeland Security Operations Center has made a big difference in the war on terror, providing a focus point for intelligence and investigators working the domestic beat:

The center is critical to the government's efforts to address an issue raised by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: the failure of agencies to share information with one another. That problem has come under intense scrutiny since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

All sides have vowed to change the culture, but some skeptics doubt that intelligence agencies will share their deepest secrets with one another. The director of the CIA, for example, oversees another multiple-agency command center set up a year ago by the president -- the Terrorist Threat Integration Center. But Broderick says the two aren't in competition: His center focuses on activities in the United States, while the other has a global mission.

Tomorrow, Ridge will have to address those issues before the Sept. 11 commission. Lawmakers have slammed his department as slow-moving, disorganized and undermanned. Private citizens have derided the department's color-coded threat levels and questioned the effectiveness of airport security checks. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, has criticized its "turtle slow" pace in hiring intelligence analysts.

But last week, asked about the operations center, Rogers had nothing but praise. The center, he said, has already brought about "unprecedented sharing."

Rogers' praise has been echoed by others as well, and after the 9/11 Commission testimony, people finally begin to understand how important information sharing will be to our security. The HSOC provides a clearinghouse of tips, alerts, and analysis for all agencies tasked with homeland security. For instance, the HSOC was behind the alerts during the Northeast blackouts last year, trying to find any evidence of terrorist involvement. (A less-than-credible site for Islamofascists tried to take responsibility, but the cause was determined to be a system failure initiated by a storm.) They provided round-the-clock support for the Code Orange alerts at Christmas, when intelligence indicated dozens of inbound international flights might be used to stage terrorist attacks in the US.

Some of the cases the HSOC and its director, retired Marine Brig. Gen. Matthew E. Broderick, handled during the day that Sari Horwitz interviewed him:

In Miami, a man tried to board an airplane with a bizarre, handmade contraption, a vacuum cleaner hose taped to tin cans and air filters. Federal agents confiscated the hose, worried that it could be used as a lethal device. The man was stopped from boarding and was being questioned. Meanwhile, a digital photo of the device was being studied by a DHS engineer.

Customs agents and Border Patrol officers were investigating a "tool" sold overseas -- Broderick would not be more specific -- that they feared could be used as a weapon.

In a northeastern city that Broderick would not name, police and federal agents were working a tip that several empty suitcases had been left in bus terminals and other areas.

Read the entire article. In a relatively short time, the Department of Homeland Security has made a significant impact on preparations, investigation, and defense of terrorist attacks inside the US.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 18, 2004 7:37 AM

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