On a conference call this afternoon, the FBI announced a reversal of its decision to cut off the intelligence sharing of information from the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). The FBI shut down reporting to the 77 fusion centers on March 1, and PJM reported on the shutdown yesterday.
The FBI had announced that that it would be resuming the TSC reporting this coming Monday, but without the Personal Information Intelligence (PII) that fusion centers had previously had access to (as I updated on the article yesterday afternoon). Fusion center officials had said yesterday that resuming the TSC reports without the PII would be “effectively useless.”
As recently as Wednesday, FBI officials were telling fusion centers and congressional staffers that PII would not be included in the resumed reporting. Two days and one PJ Media exclusive report later, and the FBI had completely changed course. It remains to be seen if the reporting is as the FBI represented it will be when it resumes on Monday.
Mike Sena, president of the National Fusion Center Association, was on the conference call this afternoon along with representatives of the fusion centers and state and local law enforcement, and confirmed the FBI’s policy reversal.
According to Sena, the TSC will be establishing a coordinating council to help improve relations between the FBI and the fusion centers, and to possibly plan even more enhanced intelligence sharing.
When an encounter with someone on the terror watch list occurs, the fusion center will not only be notified, but the fusion center will be able to pull the data up themselves, according to Sena. One additional change will be that when someone on the terror watch list is pulled over in another state, the state in which the suspect resides will also be notified — a change from previous policy.
One fusion center official I spoke with this afternoon following the conference call said, “This is a stunning reversal. It’s doubtful we would have gotten a 180 degree reversal from the FBI in less than 48 hours without the exposure from PJ Media.”
The FBI deserves recognition for doing the right thing when it came down to crunch time. Thanks go as well to the congressional staffers I spoke with who began making inquiries with the FBI earlier this week, and the many fusion center and law enforcement officials who complained to the FBI about the intel sharing shut down.
We expect a press release from the National Fusion Center Association and we will post it here as an update when it is available.
UPDATE: Here’s the relevant portion of the press release from the National Fusion Center Association about today’s FBI conference call:
During the call, Director Healy stated that he has been working with his staff over the past few months to resolve program policy issues that stopped them from providing immediate TSC hit reporting to fusion centers. Director Healy reported that this week the TSC has started immediate encounter notifications to fusion centers that contain a reference number to the TSC encounter, but that do not contain personal identifying information. He stated that the TSC will provide immediate access information to the TSC encounter data that is located on the secure systems provided by DHS and the FBI at fusion centers. I will send the access instructions in a separate message.