Information Sharing: Feast or Famine

10.27.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Sharing of intelligence and other sensitive information within government and with selected private sector entities remains a work in progress.  Depending on one’s perspective, there is too little sharing, or too much, or else the right stuff is not being shared.

J. Alan Orlob, the Vice President for Corporate Security at Marriott Hotels, told Congress last year (in a newly published hearing volume) that there was still plenty of room for improvement, and illustrated his point with an anecdote.

“After the bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia [in 2003],” he recalled, “the C.I.A. reached out to me to give me a briefing on the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiya.  I was impressed that they would do so.  However, during the briefing, the information that I was being presented was so vague and obtuse that I began correcting the briefer.  Again, the information that we needed was not being shared. We do not need specifics and names of individuals. We do need to understand terrorist group history, methods, and means.  Only in that way, can we ensure that we are employing proper countermeasures to deter or mitigate an incident.”

See “Lessons from the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks, Parts I and II” (pdf), hearings before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, January 8 and 28, 2009 (published October 2010).

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller told Congress earlier this year that intelligence sharing had actually increased to a daunting level.  “With improved information collection and sharing capabilities within the [U.S. intelligence Community], the FBI receives well over 100 different feeds of criminal and terrorist data from a variety of sources,” he said.  “It is a great challenge to ensure that intelligence analysts are able to efficiently understand and analyze the enormous volume of information they receive.”

See “Securing America’s Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Antiterrorism Tools and Interagency Communication” (pdf), Senate Judiciary Committee, January 20, 2010 (published October 2010).

The release of a new government-wide policy on “controlled unclassified information” that is supposed to promote the sharing of unclassified “sensitive” information is said to be imminent, more or less.