Business Community Urged to Help Track Terrorists

Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte is encouraging private businesses to take steps similar to government agencies to track terrorists’ international trade networks.

“What happens abroad can kill us at home,” Negroponte said. “We have to work as a team against that; now we do. If we know something about terror, the National Counterterrorism Center [NCTC] knows it, and by virtue of the NCTC’s centrality, a hub into which all spokes are attached, other relevant authorities know it too.”

The National Chamber Foundation hosted the Homeland Security Business Forum on Monday.

Carol Hallett, counselor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opened the floor with a brief overview of the government’s intelligence strategy and the potential for partnership that would integrate security within the public and private business sector.

“The private sector owns and operates 85% of the nation’s critical infrastructure — infrastructure that is a prime target for terrorist attacks,” said Hallett.

She said that the Bush Administration has recognized the necessity to share intelligence not only across government agencies, but also with the business community, to ensure that sensitive information does not end up in the wrong person’s hands.

“These are dangerous times,” Negroponte said. “We are concerned about terrorism. We are concerned about the spread of weapons of mass destruction, especially in light of North Korea’s recent missile tests. We are concerned about acts that are inimical to our national security and the welfare of our friends and allies. And we are especially concerned about the tax of citizens on our own soil.”

The Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 mandated that all dimensions of the foreign, military and domestic intelligence become a “unified enterprise” that is held to the highest standard of accuracy and accountability. Negroponte said that current reorganization efforts are in an extended period of transformation that focuses on breaking down policy and technological information barriers to promote the integration of counter-terrorism, non-proliferation and homeland security initiatives.

“Our challenge as we see it, is to build an integrated international capability to address threats to the homeland, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties,” Negroponte said.

Enterprise objective No. 1 is to rally support from the business community for homeland security projects and programs. Negroponte said that the creation of the National Security Branch enabled all intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism networks to facilitate information sharing “under a single umbrella.”

He said that in the past the foreign-domestic divide was externally focused, especially within the counterintelligence work of the FBI. The FBI has now been restructured to operate as an intelligence system as well as a law enforcement agency.

Under the leadership of Charles Allen, chief intelligence officer for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the intelligence community has “bridged the overseas-homeland gap,” Negroponte said.

“This effort that DHS brings intelligence to bear against the problems of domestic security, and the security challenges that you, as business leaders, face in your communities,” he said.

However, Negroponte also acknowledged the necessity to preserve the privacy and civil liberties that American society holds dear while building up intelligence components.

“I would like to relate what we are doing more specifically to you, the private sector leaders with international interests,” Negroponte said. “I would invite you to begin thinking, if you haven’t already, about the unitary nature of security in a globally interdependent system, and I would ask you to consider how your knowledge of diverse operating environments could, if fully integrated, better help you asses your vulnerabilities.”

Negroponte said the private business sector should make every effort to do what the governmental intelligence agencies are doing to protect the country, because terrorists take advantage of the “same social, transportation and cyber networks that facilitate international commerce.”