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Congressional Testimony

Amos N. Guiora is a Professor of Law at the S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah, where he teaches criminal law, global perspectives on counterterrorism, religion and terrorism, and national security law. He served for nineteen years in the Israel Defense Forces.  Recently he testified before the House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommitee about the importance of sharing information in preventing terrorism.  You can watch the video here and download the transcript here.

On May 15, 2008 I testified before the House Of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment. The Subcommittee, chaired by Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Cal) was particularly interested in the subject of resilience—that is whether government and business alike are prepared for a terrorist attack on two different levels: preparing for an attack and ensuring continuity in the aftermath of the attack.

The two issues—before and after—are the essence of counter-terrorism preparation. For them to be truly implementable, government must engage in information sharing on all three levels (state, local and federal) and also with the business community. While the idea of information sharing with the business community raises important –and legitimate—questions within the law enforcement community, it is an absolute requirement.

During the course of my testimony, the Members of the Subcommittee were particularly interested in the difference between the American and Israeli cultures—in particular how Israelis respond to terrorism and understand that attacks are, in a sense, inevitable and how that understanding enables society to more quickly “rebound” in the aftermath of an attack. Furthermore, Members inquired as to the nature of the information sharing relationships and whether this did not raise important legal and constitutional issues.

To ensure a resilient homeland in a post-9/11 society, the United States must have a homeland security strategy that (1) understands the threat, (2) effectively counters the threat while preserving American values, (3) establishes a system of accountability, and (4) creates public-private and federal-state partnerships facilitating intelligence sharing and the continuity of society in the aftermath of an attack.

It is necessary to work with clear definitions of the terms and concepts that frame this strategy for resiliency. As I have previously articulated, “one of the greatest hindrances to a cogent discussion of terrorism and counterterrorism has been that the terms lack clear, universal definitions.” For this reason, I provide clear, concrete definitions of terrorism, counterterrorism, homeland security, effectiveness, accountability, and resiliency—the key terms in articulating the strategy for a resilient homeland. In addition to these definitions, I include two critical matrices for: Determining Effectiveness and Implementing Accountability.

The central focus of this testimony examines the dire consequences of the break-down in communications following both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which suggests that in order to realize resiliency in the future, it is paramount that there is clear cooperation and coordination between the public sector and the private sector. Effective resiliency will ultimately be tied to establishing public-private partnerships.

In establishing these partnerships, they must be based upon three critical components: (1) clearly defined roles and responsibilities; (2) articulating a coordinated prevention-response plan; and (3) repeated training and/or simulation exercises using the prevention-response plan against realistic disaster/terror scenarios. By strategically strengthening security, sharing intelligence, and creating plans for post-attack procedures (such as evacuation plans, transportation plans, establishing places of refuge, and having basic supplies available to aid first-responders) private partners become the key to a secure and resilient homeland.

The importance of information before, during and after a disaster or attack is vital to resilience. Information sharing is, perhaps, the single most important aspect of successful resilience. Information sharing requires government agencies (federal, state and local) to share information both amongst themselves and with the private sector. Furthermore, it requires that the private sector—subject to existing legal and constitutional limits—share information with the public sector. Successful information sharing requires cooperation and coordination both internally (within sectors) and cross sectors (between public-private entities).

The lessons of 9/11 and Katrina speak for themselves. Resilience in the aftermath of either disaster or attack requires federal, state and local government agencies to understand that information sharing is vital to the nation’s homeland security. That information sharing process must include the private sector. Otherwise, the mistakes of yesterday will inevitably re-occur.

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