"Terrorists are not only foreign infiltrators but also homegrown radicals who blend easily into the very societies that they have come to despise. What I found so shocking about the London incident, beyond the senseless carnage, was the fact that neither the British nor our own intelligence services saw the attacks coming," said Thompson, speaking during opening remarks for the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Hearing, "A Progress Report on Information Sharing for Homeland Security."
He noted the challenge of information sharing was last addressed in depth during the 108th Congress, prior to the issuance of the 9/11 Commission's Report. In its report, the 9/11 Commission called for major reforms in the intelligence community's organization of practices, including the development of a decentralized network for information sharing. "It made clear that improving border security, preparing first responders, and securing critical infrastructure is not enough. We will not be safe unless we are effectively sharing information about terrorists and their plans," said Thompson.
Such information sharing includes reaching out to law enforcement in rural and small communities, he added, noting that 90 percent of law enforcement agencies within the United States serve communities of less than 25,000 people. Over 75 percent of police departments across the nation, moreover, serve communities of less than 10,000 residents.
"As the 9/11 Commission demonstrated, it is in these locales that law enforcement will first encounter the next group of terrorists who mean us harm. Indeed, it was local police officers who stopped three of the 9/11 hijackers for routine traffic violations in the weeks and months prior to the Sept. 11th attacks. The arrests of right-wing extremists like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph in rural jurisdictions further highlight the often- crucial role that law enforcement in these areas play in apprehending terrorists," said Thompson.
He pointed out that rural America is home to much of the nation's critical infrastructure, such as agriculture, food production facilities, dams, nuclear power plants, portions of the electrical grid, interstate highway and communication systems and emergency services.
"For all these reasons, I am very interested in how information sharing is working, and how it is developing, for the benefit of small towns and rural communities," said Thompson. "While much of our homeland security attention has been focused on large cities and urban areas like New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles, it is critical that we also ensure that our small cities and towns are looped into information sharing networks," he concluded.