U.S. law enforcement officials are taking steps to address a major failure exposed by the 2001 terrorist attacks, the lack of intelligence sharing among federal, state and local police agencies.
The extensive investigations of what went wrong in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon revealed a glaring inability among law enforcement agencies to share information about some of the 19 hijackers involved in the plot.
Now, the Justice Department has launched a new program to expand intelligence sharing through federal, state and local levels, to make sure that information on the activities of suspected terrorists and other criminals is accessible.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the plan at a Washington news conference.
?We have heard a lot of talk about our ability to connect the dots [establish links],? he noted. ?I think that is the phrase we have been using since September 11. This plan, The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan, represents law enforcement's commitment to take it upon itself to ensure that we do everything possible to connect the dots.?
The new intelligence sharing initiative stems in part from an international conference of police chiefs two years ago that made a series of recommendations on the issue. Joe Polisar is the police chief of Garden Grove, California. He is also the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
?No matter how hard we try to protect people, places and events, there will always be soft targets available for terrorists to attack,? he said. ?To put it simply, stopping terrorism has very little to do with controlling access or the thickness of our concrete barricades. Defeating terrorism requires going after terrorists and taking their groups apart, before they can strike.?
The Justice Department says the new intelligence sharing plan will link more than 30 groups and agencies representing more than one million law enforcement professionals at the international, federal, state and local levels.