Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 26, 2005

Info-sharing challenges – the UK example

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,International HLS,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on December 26, 2005

CQ had a story in their final edition before the holidays about a new report released by the Democratic staff of the House HSC entitled “The Vital Link to Improving Information Sharing with State, Local and Tribal Law Enforcement.”

Amid some partisan rhetoric is a very solid analysis of one of the toughest problems in the last few years: getting meaningful intelligence to front-line law enforcement officials – and not just sanitized products made meaningless by classification rules and procedures.

The key proposal in the report is the following:

Rather than pursuing this patchworked approach, the United States would be better served by a solution modeled on the Central Services’ Police International Counter Terrorism Unit (PICTU) and New Scotland Yard’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) in the United Kingdom (UK). JTAC, with PICTU’s assistance, has established a successful process by which highly classified intelligence information is converted to a law enforcement sensitive-type format that can be widely disseminated to police officers to support both threat assessment and prevention planning. JTAC is staffed not only by intelligence analysts but also by a select group of police officers with security clearances – including representatives from PICTU – who know firsthand what information their colleagues in the field need to intercept terrorists and foil their plans. JTAC, with PICTU’s assistance, can identify what intelligence information would be of interest at a local level, redact whatever portions of that information might harm the national security, and funnel it to an appropriate audience. In addition to the critical role that PICTU plays in this process, it also uses open source material to inform local police forces of terrorist threats and how to address them when intelligence resources are lacking.

The report compares the JTAC to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in the U.S., and argues that we need a “PICTU” equivalent as a key step in solving the problem of frontline information-sharing.

This seems like a solid proposal, especially the joint-staffing element of it. The UK’s experience is not directly applicable to the United States in some respects, mainly due to different legal and institutional structures. But both countries face the same fundamental challenge, and the British model here is one worth emulating as part of a broad solution that addresses the structural, technological and cultural challenges of info-sharing.

ps. For more background on JTAC and PICTU see here and here.

Update (12/29): text edited to add link to report.

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