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  • At a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee hearing April 17 - meant to discuss the department's budget for fiscal year 2014 - much of the conversation revolved around the recent attacks in Boston.

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified there, explaining the department's new financial tightness and the possible impacts of sequestration.

    Currently, as part of the department's terrorism prevention, fusion centers are set up across the country in state and regional areas to analyze and investigate information about threats. There are also Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), which are a combination of agencies led by the Justice Department and FBI to prevent threats.

    At the hearing, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said having both fusion centers and JTTFs was unnecessary – especially in times of a slimmer budget. The fusion centers should be eliminated, he said, in lieu of the more frequently updated JTTFs.

    Napolitano said that consolidation would put many issues under the umbrella of terrorism - a recurring theme at the hearing. The department is celebrating its 10 year anniversary and may be realizing that terrorism is different now than it was during 9/11.

    Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked Napolitano why the shootings in Newtown, Conn. were classified as mass murders but that the bombs in Boston were called acts of terror, when both included slaughter of innocents. Napolitano said that she didn’t know.

    McCaskill urged that the government define terrorism when an attack is executed without supported evidence.

    “I find it troubling that one is characterized in a way that causes so much more fear and disruption in everyone’s daily lives than the other one,” McCaskill said.

    The photo is of the Boston Public Library in summer 2011. Just outside the BPL, one of the bombs exploded on April 15, 2013.
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