With hundreds of people being held by federal officials with and without charges related to Sept. 11 and with tips on alleged terrorist sightings and other activities flying into federal offices from all directions, a new bill before Congress would bring some order to the chaos by establishing a centralized Web site--www.911.gov--for the exchange of information related to terrorism. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., late Tuesday night introduced the 911.Gov Act of 2001 in an effort to make it easier for the public to find and share information related to anti-terrorism efforts.
Flake revealed his intentions to introduce the bill last month when he realized that there were at least five federal Web sites taking terrorism-related tips--on behalf of the FBI, the Justice Department, the Defense Department, the Customs Service, and the Treasury. He had the sense that spreading information so thin was leading to confusion. "People have information that could save lives," says Flake's press secretary, Matthew Specht. "They shouldn't have to waste time tracking down the exact URL."
The bill proposes to place responsibility for creation and upkeep of the site on the newly created Office of Homeland Security, and it specifies that the site should act as a sort of portal to all other sites established by federal agencies for collecting information on suspicious activities thought to be terrorism-related. Specht says the time line for establishing the site would depend on how quickly Congress acts on the bill. He says Flake hopes to get the bill on the House's suspension calendar, which speeds up adoption of noncontroversial bills but also requires a two-thirds majority for approval rather than the usual simple majority.
Specht also says there's no intention for the site to be used for information not related to the fight against terrorism. He says establishing the site as a central repository for traditional 911 information would be far too complex and that the language of the site would make it clear that typical emergencies should be reported by calling 911.