New Jersey Needs An Independent Director Of Counter Terrorism

New Jersey families deserve nothing less than a fully trained and experienced Director of Counter-Terrorism whose ONLY job is to identify and detect would-be terrorists before they strike.

New Jersey was a staging ground for both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for the horrific mass murders of September 11, 2001, which stole the lives of nearly 700 state residents.

Many of our children attend schools near terror targets like chemical plants and financial districts. Our port areas are said to be incredibly vulnerable while the Northeast Corridor rail line penetrates our highest population centers.

Within this setting, I believe New Jersey should have a Director of Counter-Terrorism who can answer directly to the Governor about every aspect of the State’s intelligence operations and counter-terrorist activities.

My legislation, S-1922, to make permanent the Office of Counter-Terrorism and lift it from the total control of the Attorney General’s Office, will ensure the execution of a coherent and integrated counter-terrorism strategy in New Jersey. I was happy it received unanimous bipartisan support when it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 14th. It also enjoys support from legislators who initially backed the creation of a less-independent Director under separate legislation.

Contrary to recent suggestions, my bill complies with the philosophy of the federal 9-11 Commission whose central recommendation – at the federal level – was that authority and responsibility for intelligence be vested in a National Intelligence Director, an advisor to the President, whose only job would be to coordinate all entities of the intelligence community.

The 9-11 Commission also noted that under former federal practices, the then-Director of Central Intelligence lacked sufficient authority to carry out a coherent intelligence mandate and, instead, was forced to rely on the strength of his personality.

Likewise, I believe the Director of Counter-Terrorism in New Jersey must be free to hire key personnel for intelligence operations and to brief the Legislature without first going through the Attorney General’s Office.

Further, the 9-11 Commission recommended “unifying the many participants in the counter-terrorism effort and their knowledge in a network-based information sharing system that transcends traditional government boundaries.” That is precisely what I envision taking place for an independent Office of Counter-Terrorism.

Rather than reflecting a turf war between the Director of Counter-Terrorism and the Attorney General, the bill would enable the Governor and the entire intelligence community nationwide to have one go-to person for fighting terrorism in New Jersey.

It would ensure the State’s full participation in the national homeland security effort by targeting a primary intelligence liaison whose office is codified through legislation as a permanent entity.

The staggering breadth of responsibilities in the Department of Law and Public Safety forces our Attorney General to constantly mull decisions involving every department of state government as well as on diverse topics ranging from bear hunts to insurance fraud to the accuracy of voting machines. My bill would make one director accountable to one topic – fighting all aspects of terrorism.

With the myriad responsibilities of the Attorney General, it is unfair to expect him to have a timely response in place for all terrorist threats. But it is more necessary than ever before in our lifetimes that someone have a firm grip on the controls of intelligence gathering and threat responses.

It is entirely appropriate, as proposed in my legislation, that the Director of Counter-Terrorism continue to report to the Attorney General on all matters relating to the prosecution and enforcement of criminal business.

Joining me in sponsoring this proposal are co-prime sponsor, Senator John A. Girgenti, and Senator Paul A. Sarlo, both Democrats. Senate Republicans who joined as co-sponsors are Thomas H. Kean, Joseph M. Kyrillos and Peter A. Inverso.

Senator Adler represents the 6th Legislative District, which includes parts of Camden County. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.