House Passes Barletta Bill to Improve Law Enforcement Access to Intelligence

Sep 12, 2017
Press Release
Legislation Helps Local Law Enforcement Fight Terrorism

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) to strengthen information sharing between local, state, and federal law enforcement.  Barletta’s Department of Homeland Security Classified Facility Inventory Act, H.R. 2443, requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to maintain an inventory of facilities certified to store information classified above the Secret level.  The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Law enforcement officials at all levels of government commonly share counterterrorism information.  However, a recent report by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, DHS, and the Department of Justice found that, while counterterrorism information is typically classified at the Top Secret level, DHS personnel lack sufficient access to Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) where this information can be shared in the field.  Barletta’s bill addresses this issue by requiring greater transparency and information sharing on the locations of all facilities certified by DHS to store classified infrastructure or systems above the secret level.

“Our local law enforcement officers are the first line of defense against terrorism.  We know it will be the police officer on the streets of Hazleton, Shamokin, or Shippensburg, not some analyst in Washington, who will recognize when a member of our community has radicalized or been recruited by a gang or terrorist sect,” Barletta said.  “Far too often I’ve heard complaints that federal officials do not take local information seriously, simply because someone has not been able to obtain a certain security clearance.  This bill eliminates unnecessary roadblocks that could prevent or delay efforts to protect our communities.”

The DHS Classified Facility Inventory Act calls for greater transparency in the locations of all SCIFs certified by DHS to store classified infrastructure or systems above the Secret level.  Additionally, the bill reduces wasteful spending by requiring DHS to maintain and update a list of all SCIFs to ensure that DHS does not unnecessarily invest in new facilities in areas already covered by a pre-existing facility.

This bill compliments Barletta’s Fusion Center Enhancement Act, H.R. 642, which passed the House in January of this year.  H.R. 642 clarifies and enhances the partnership between DHS and the national network of fusion centers, which are collaborative efforts of two or more agencies – including federal, state, and local entities – that share resources and information regarding terrorist or criminal activity.  Pennsylvania is home to three fusion centers – the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center in Harrisburg, Delaware Valley in Philadelphia, and Southwestern PA Region 13 in Pittsburgh.

Below is the text of Barletta’s floor remarks during consideration of the DHS Classified Facility Inventory Act:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Today we are advancing another bill to support the men and women who answer the call to keep their neighbors safe.  Yesterday, we honored the first responders and countless other Americans who were murdered in the September 11 terrorist attacks.  We will never forget them, nor the great sacrifices of their families and loved ones.   

I come from Pennsylvania, which has a proud history of service, from the National Guard to Police to firehouses to EMTs.  Even one of our former Governors, Tom Ridge, was a key player in setting up the Department of Homeland Security.  Today, we in congress continue to work to reduce the blind spots that led to 9/11 and ensure our nation’s newest department is able to get local law enforcement officers the resources they need to keep our communities safe.

Having served as Mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, I have known that it will be the police officer on the streets of Hazleton, Shamokin, or Shippensburg, not some analyst in Washington, who will recognize when a member of our community has radicalized or been recruited by a gang or terrorist sect.

That’s one of the reasons why I worked with the committee to introduce H.R. 2443, the Department of Homeland Security Classified Facility Inventory Act.  My bill strengthens information sharing between local, state, and federal law enforcement by requiring DHS to maintain an inventory of facilities certified to store information classified above the secret level.  This is a follow up to “The Fusion Center Enhancement Act of 2017,” which I first introduced last Congress, and has successfully passed the committee and the House.

I come from a state with three fusion centers -- the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center, known as PaCIC, in Harrisburg, Delaware Valley in Philadelphia, and Southwestern PA Region 13 in Pittsburgh.  This bill is part of my efforts to make DHS share information with its state and local partners.

More and more state and local officials are now getting the security clearances they need to get important national security information that will help them.  However, gaps remain.  This bill will ensure that DHS is tracking the specific locations of all the department’s secure facilities and make this information available to appropriate State and local personnel, as well as department employees.

To be honest, it’s frustrating that this legislation is even needed.  Congress and DHS share the same goal of keeping our communities safe.  We must make it clear that information needs to be shared to allow for proper oversight, both now and in the future.  Our state and local law enforcement officials are professionals and leaders of our communities.  However, far too often, I have heard complaints that federal officials do not take local information seriously, simply because someone has not been able to obtain a certain security clearance.  My legislation will help address this concern.

Specifically, this bill requires greater transparency and information sharing on the locations of all facilities certified by DHS to store classified infrastructure or systems above the Secret level, commonly known as “SCIFs.”  This will give local law enforcement the tools they need to protect their communities and our nation as a whole.

Additionally, by requiring DHS to maintain an updated list of all these facilities, this bill will ensure that the department does not invest in new facilities in areas already covered, in turn reducing the chances of wasteful spending.

I urge my colleagues to support this measure, which passed the House once already as part of the larger DHS Authorization bill in July.  I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will realize the critical need for my bill and will act quickly so President Trump can sign it into law.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I reserve the balance of my time. 

-30-