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Introduction and Overview

Our success in preventing future terrorist attacks depends upon our ability to gather, analyze, and share information and intelligence regarding those who want to attack us, the tactics that they use, and the targets that they intend to attack. Our National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, issued in September 2006, recognizes that the War on Terror is a different kind of war, which requires a paradigm shift and the application of all elements of our national power and influence. The intelligence and information sharing structures that once enabled the winning of the Cold War now require greater flexibility and resilience to confront the threats facing our Nation from a transnational terrorist movement determined to destroy our people, our freedoms, and our way of life.

For the past six years, this Administration has worked within the Federal Government, and with our State, local, tribal, private sector, and foreign partners to transform our policies, processes, procedures, and—most importantly—our workplace cultures to reinforce the imperative of improved information sharing. The exchange of information should be the rule, not the exception, in our efforts to combat the terrorist threat. Substantial improvements have occurred within individual agencies and disciplines, but there is still more to be done. Improving information sharing in the post–September 11 world requires an environment that supports the sharing of information across all levels of government, disciplines, and security domains. As with our achievements to date, an improved information sharing environment will not be constructed overnight, but rather will evolve over time and will be the fruit of careful cultivation. An improved information sharing environment also will be constructed upon a foundation of trusted partnerships among all levels of government, the private sector, and our foreign allies—partnerships based on a shared commitment to detect, prevent, disrupt, preempt, and mitigate the effects of terrorism. This Strategy sets forth the Administration’s vision of what improvements are needed and how they can be achieved.

The Strategy was developed with the understanding that homeland security information, terrorism information, and law enforcement information related to terrorism can come from multiple sources, all levels of government, as well as from private sector organizations and foreign sources. Federal, State, local, and tribal government organizations use such information for multiple purposes. In addition to traditional law enforcement uses, such information is used to (1) support efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, (2) develop critical infrastructure protection and resilience plans, (3) prioritize emergency management, response, and recovery planning activities, (4) devise training and exercise programs, and (5) determine the allocation of funding and other resources for homeland security-related purposes.

The Need for a National Strategy

While improved information sharing has been an Administration priority since the September 11 attacks, this Strategy reflects the first time the Administration has articulated the full contours of its vision in a single document. Memorializing the Strategy in a single document not only provides information to others about the Administration’s plans and outlook, but also guides our efforts as we continue to implement many programs and initiatives designed to advance and facilitate the sharing of terrorism-related information.

This Strategy will assist the Administration in ensuring that Federal, State, local and tribal government employees responsible for protecting our Nation from future attacks or responding should an attack occur understand the Administration’s expectations and plans for achieving improvements in the gathering and sharing of information related to terrorism.

Accordingly, while this Strategy describes the vision that has guided the Administration for the past six years, it also sets forth our plan to build upon progress and establish a more integrated information sharing capability to ensure that those who need information to protect our Nation from terrorism will receive it and those who have that information will share it. We will improve interagency information sharing at the Federal level, while building information sharing bridges between the Federal Government and our non-Federal partners.

Guiding Principles

Those responsible for combating terrorism must have access to timely and accurate information regarding those who want to attack us, their plans and activities, and the targets that they intend to attack. That information guides our efforts to:

  • Identify rapidly both immediate and long-term threats;
  • Identify persons involved in terrorism-related activities; and
  • Implement information-driven and risk-based detection, prevention, deterrence, response, protection, and emergency management efforts.

Experience has shown that there is no single source for information related to terrorism. It is derived by gathering, fusing, analyzing, and evaluating relevant information from a broad array of sources on a continual basis. Important information can come through the efforts of the Intelligence Community, Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement and homeland security authorities, other government agencies (e.g., the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and Human Services), and the private sector (e.g., the transportation, healthcare, financial, and information technology sectors). Commonly referred to as homeland security information, terrorism information, or law enforcement information, this wide-ranging information can be found across all levels of government as well as in the private sector.

This Strategy provides the vision for how our Nation will best use and build upon the information sharing innovations which have emerged post-September 11 in order to develop a fully coordinated and integrated information sharing capability that supports our efforts to combat terrorism. The Strategy is founded on the following core principles and understandings:

  • Effective information sharing comes through strong partnerships among Federal, State, local, and tribal authorities, private sector organizations, and our foreign partners and allies;
  • Information acquired for one purpose, or under one set of authorities, might provide • unique insights when combined, in accordance with applicable law, with seemingly unrelated information from other sources, and therefore we must foster a culture of awareness in which people at all levels of government remain cognizant of the functions and needs of others and use knowledge and information from all sources to support counterterrorism efforts;
  • Information sharing must be woven into all aspects of counterterrorism activity, including preventive and protective actions, actionable responses, criminal and counterterrorism investigative activities, event preparedness, and response to and recovery from catastrophic events;
  • The procedures, processes, and systems that support information sharing must draw • upon and integrate existing technical capabilities and must respect established authorities and responsibilities; and
  • State and major urban area fusion centers represent a valuable information sharing • resource and should be incorporated into the national information sharing framework, which will require that fusion centers achieve a baseline level of capability to gather, process, share, and utilize information and operate in a manner that respects individuals’ privacy rights and other legal rights protected by U.S. laws.
Foundational Elements

This Strategy is focused on improving the sharing of homeland security, terrorism, and law enforcement information related to terrorism within and among all levels of governments and the private sector.

  • Information Sharing at the Federal Level. The instruments of our national power have long depended on the capabilities of the Intelligence Community to collect, process, analyze, and disseminate intelligence regarding our adversaries and enemies. Our efforts to combat terrorism depend on enhancing those intelligence capabilities, while enabling other Federal departments and agencies responsible for protecting the United States and its interests to regularly share information and intelligence with other public and private entities in support of mission critical activities. Information sharing at the Federal level has improved significantly since September 11, but challenges still remain that must be addressed before our strategic vision is realized.
  • Information Sharing with State, Local, and Tribal Entities. As our Nation’s first “preventers and responders,” State, local, and tribal governments are critical to our efforts to prevent future terrorist attacks and to respond if an attack occurs. They must have access to the information that enables them to protect our local communities. In addition, these State, local, and tribal officials are often best able to identify potential threats that exist within their jurisdictions. They are full and trusted partners with the Federal Government in our Nation’s efforts to combat terrorism, and therefore they must be a part of an information sharing framework that supports an effective and efficient two-way flow of information enabling officials at all levels of government to counter and respond to threats.
  • Information Sharing with the Private Sector. Private sector information represents a crucial element in both understanding the current threat environment and protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure from targeted attacks. The private sector owns and operates over 85% of the nation’s critical infrastructure and is therefore a primary source of important vulnerability and other potentially relevant consequence information. Some private sector entities have cultivated effective information sharing partnerships with the State and local authorities that regulate their activities in the localities in which they operate. Important elements of the private sector have made significant investments to develop mechanisms and methodologies to evaluate, assess, and exchange information across regional, market, and security-related communities of interest; however still more can be done to improve those mechanisms and communication. We will use both sector-specific and geographic strategies to ensure effective information sharing with the private sector.
  • Sharing Information with Foreign Partners. In the immediate wake of the September 11 attacks, many foreign governments joined the United States as partners in the Global War on Terrorism, and many have since contributed to the war in important ways. The events of the past six years have reaffirmed that risks and threats often emerge and take shape without regard to geographic borders. Intelligence provided by foreign partners often provides the first indications of terrorist plans and intentions. Accordingly, we are taking steps to evaluate and improve upon our sharing of information with foreign governments and encouraging them to share with us.
  • Protecting Information Privacy and Other Legal Rights. It will remain essential to continue to protect the information privacy and other legal rights of Americans as we protect our Nation from terrorism. Accordingly, our efforts will remain relentless on two fronts -- protecting our people, communities, and infrastructure from attack and zealously protecting the information privacy and other legal rights of Americans. At the President’s direction, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence developed guidelines that describe how executive departments and agencies will protect the information privacy and other legal rights of Americans when sharing information related to terrorism. Consistent with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the guidelines were developed in consultation with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Foundations of the National Strategy for Information Sharing

Linkage with Other National Strategies

The National Strategy for Information Sharing does not exist in a vacuum. It is a critical component of our Nation’s comprehensive approach for combating terrorism. As such, it takes its lead from the President’s National Security Strategy, which provides the broad vision and goals for confronting the national security challenges of the 21st century. In addition, it is closely aligned with the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism and the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

This Strategy also supports and supplements the National Implementation Plan, which is the foundational document guiding the efforts of the Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning in the National Counterterrorism Center, required by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The National Implementation Plan integrates the activities of all elements of national power into our efforts to combat terrorism. Additionally, the Strategy supports and supplements other relevant planning efforts, such as those associated with the implementation of the National Response Plan and the establishment of a National Command and Coordination Capability.

Finally, this Strategy aligns with the National Intelligence Strategy, published at Presidential direction by the Director of National Intelligence in October 2005. An information sharing framework is recognized as a critical component of intelligence reform in the National Intelligence Strategy.