AMERICA FROM TERRORIST ATTACK
Meet the National Joint Terrorism Task Force
Deep in the operational
heart of FBIHQ's "SIOC" (the Strategic Information and Operations
Center) is a room that's always buzzing. With some 57 people from 38 U.S.
agencies (law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, defense, public safety,
and homeland security), you can understand why. This operational nerve
center is all about one-stop shopping for terrorist intelligence...in order
to prevent acts of terrorism.
As America prepares
for a summer and fall of heightened threats to U.S. interests, we asked
Ken Love, Acting Chief of the NJTTF, to talk about his operation.
do you mean when you describe the NJTTF as "the point of fusion?"
Mr. Love: It's a pretty simple concept: we bring together people from
every U.S. agency that collects and processes terrorist intelligence; we put
them in one room and hook them into their own and into our FBI intelligence
databases; and all of a sudden we have the universe of terrorist intelligence
on the table--to share, to query, to coordinate, to answer questions, and to
give direction and support to the 84 Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) around
the country that function under us. "Fusion" means that terrorist
intelligence is instantly shared vertically from HQ to our JTTFs and horizontally
to all NJTTF agencies.
a typical day like for the 57 people in your shop?
Mr. Love: Long, intense, and usually rewarding. It starts at 5 am
when we collate the day's hot issues from multiple sources and circulate them
to everyone to digest, process, and query. At 8 am, there's a small coordination
meeting with CT (Counterterrorism) Watch and SIOC supervisors on the day's
briefings, then at 9:30 am sharp, everyone in the room turns off computers,
telephones, everything--and we hold an intense, formatted briefing. We cover
all the top and breaking issues; we solicit input from everyone in the room
for breaking news from his or her agency; we get a detailed briefing from CT
watch on the current threat stream; we field questions and talk strategies
and logistics. Then we get to work--and that can mean a lot of things. People
send items of interest to their home agencies and run down the answers to questions
their agencies have asked. They query their agency databases to answer thousands
of lead and namecheck questions from our JTTFs. They coordinate special terrorism
projects, unleashing all 84 JTTFs to address an issue, fill in an intelligence
gap, solve a problem...or activating just one to address local threat. And
much much more.
does that "typical" day change when the threat level is elevated?
Mr. Love: I'd say the normal buzz pretty much turns into a roar--a
productive roar, but a roar. Our JTTFs need more questions answered...each
agency represented needs many more questions answered and requires full and
lengthy briefings. We go into 24/7 mode, with pre-cleared back ups for our
people, and institute Saturday morning briefings.
know you make the call on special projects in your shop--both priority
ones that could lead to identifying terrorists or cells and others that
aim for long-term impacts. Can you give us a few examples of projects
that you think have made a real difference in managing the threat environment?
Mr. Love: We've got an awful lot of them on the table right now, as
you can imagine. So let me just hit some highlights. To identify potential
terrorist sleeper cells, Operation Tripwire commissions all JTTFs to ask specific
questions of specific industries (e.g., suspicious behavior of airline passengers)
then looks for patterns from the collected data. We're collecting and analyzing
data on radicalism in prisons. We're coordinating new initiatives for railroads
and cruise ships.
you be doing anything special in the coming months, with heightened threats
Mr. Love: Yes, a number of things. For example, we're about to expand
our cadre of JTTFs from 84 to 100. These 16 new task forces will give us the
coverage we need in areas that can produce good intelligence. We are also coordinating
through the 2004 Terrorism Threat Task Force new iterations of Operation Tripwire--this
time having our JTTFs collect data on ferry systems...and on the sale of unmanned
aerial vehicles. These kinds of projects really show the heart of the NJTTF
mission. When all our agencies work together as we do, we can find better ways
to help disrupt, dismantle, and eliminate terrorist threats to America.
War on Terrorism | War on Terrorism
Seeking Information | Most