Highway Watch program director Don L. Rondeau chaired a conference call with a senior Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) representative and stakeholders in the trucking industry last week in efforts to clarify how information about potential terrorist activity will be relayed to the trucking officials in the future.
Specifically, the call addressed the confusion that was wrought two weeks ago when some trucking officials were warned by law enforcement agencies that their was a good possibility that fuel trucks might be used as weapons for terrorist attacks on specific locations around Sept. 11, only to be later told by DHS that the threat was unlikely.
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff is reviewing the events that led to the confusion caused by the Aug. 9 bulletin, which was sent to law enforcement officials by the FBI, the senior DHS official said. While some local law enforcement agencies brought the threat to the attention of trucking companies in their areas, others did not. On Aug. 12, the threat was downgraded to “unlikely.”
Rondeau hopes the Secretary’s assessment will result in basic operating principles for the myriad of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to follow when assessing and disseminating terror-related information.
Highway Watch endorses a policy whereby intelligence and law enforcement officials would reach a consensus on a threat level before disseminating the information to trucking and the general public. Rondeau said the confusion that resulted two weeks ago was a result of lack of such guidance.
“The silver lining is that five years ago, there was no information sharing,” Rondeau told Fleet Owner. “What we’re seeing is the result of hyper-sharing. And that’s not a negative thing. In response to the private sector’s request for clarification, agencies at the state and federal level have responded. And they’re working to clarify how to communicate like-bulletins in the future.”
The conference call was an example of this, Rondeau continued. “The private sector had always been responding to less than credible information, but now through Highway Watch, they could affect the process so that they could deploy their incredible expertise. While major media outlets were reporting less-than-credible information, we got the word out to millions on the true nature of the threat.”
Additionally, the Highway Watch’s highway coalition, which is made up of representatives of companies that either directly or indirectly affect the highway community, may have its role expanded to shape policy issues related to terrorism, such as how to handle bulletins to the industry, according to the senior DHS official. Currently, Highway Watch utilizes the coalition’s expertise to respond to emerging threats, Rondeau said.
“It’s going to take law enforcement, the private sector, and federal intelligence to continue to work together and set standards that will allow us to focus on deterring and detecting terror activity,” Rondeau said. “We’re heading that way, and just this dialog is unprecedented.”