Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 22, 2006

New CRS report on homeland security intelligence

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christian Beckner on August 22, 2006

The Congressional Research Service issued a new report that looks at the definition, scope, and characteristics of homeland security intelligence (HSINT). It’s available for the first time on the Internet here at Homeland Security Watch:

RL33616: Homeland Security Intelligence: Perceptions, Statutory Definitions, and Approaches, August 18, 2006

The report attempts to address a question that hasn’t been fully answered yet: what do we really mean by “homeland security intelligence”? Is it a new intelligence discipline? Is it instead simply a constituency within the intelligence community? Or is it instead something new, that doesn’t easily conform to earlier intelligence paradigms, and requires new means of interaction and control?

The author of the report, Todd Masse, offers three potential ways to frame thinking about homeland security intelligence: (1) a geographic approach, i.e. focusing on where collection takes place; (2) a structural/statutory approach, focusing on who is doing the collecting; and (3) a holistic approach, that does not have formally delineated borders. About this final approach, Masse writes:

The approach recognizes no borders and is neither “top down” nor “bottom up.” It involves and values equally information collected by the U.S. private sector owners of national critical infrastructure, intelligence related to national security collected by federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers, as well as the traditional “Ints” collected by statutory members of the IC. It involves strategic and tactical intelligence designed to prevent attacks on the U.S. homeland, as well as highly tactical and event-driven information coordination that must take place in response to a terrorist attack or national disaster. Yet such an approach also implies a level of information sharing between federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector information collection entities that does not appear to exist currently.

….Under the holistic approach, the HSINT community might include the 16 statutory members of the IC (as each collects national intelligence, or intelligence related to national security which could have a profound impact on homeland security); the National Counterterrorism, National Counterintelligence, National Counter Proliferation, and Open Source Intelligence Centers; the 14 existing private sector Information Sharing and Analysis Centers, scores of state and local law enforcement entities charged with gathering criminal intelligence, numerous state and regional “intelligence fusion” centers, and federal entities with law enforcement responsibilities which may collect intelligence related to national security. This holistic approach implies an interdependency between the diverse players of the statutory IC and the broader HSINT Community.

Building these interdependencies needs to be one of the most important objectives for our national security today. Unfortunately progress has been halting over the last five years, although I think the intelligence community has started to turn the corner within the last year. Organizations like the NCTC, the ISE office, and the many state/local fusion centers are gradually leading to a more interdependent HSINT community. But these efforts will be insufficient without a deep commitment to cultural change (tied to pay and promotion) in the intelligence community, one that eschews classification except when absolutely necessary (to allow rapid sharing with non-federal sources), promotes collaboration, and encourages information-sharing rather than information-hoarding.

Overall, a very thoughtful piece from CRS. And as always, the full Homeland Security Watch collection of CRS reports is available here.

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Comment by Michael Hampton

August 23, 2006 @ 1:46 am

I wish you lots of luck getting the intelligence community not to classify everything that comes in automatically. But this is the chief problem with U.S. national intelligence right now.

Unfortunately, it’s not at all a priority for the Bush administration; rather, it wants to expand secrecy. This will foreclose any meaningful moves toward an information-sharing network where intelligence gets to the people who need it, in time to do good.

Pingback by Bits of homeland stupidity - Homeland Stupidity

August 23, 2006 @ 5:05 am

[…] More than a week and a half after learning of a foiled terrorist plot being planned in the United Kingdom where terrorists would blow up airplanes by mixing up liquid explosives aboard the aircraft, the Department of Homeland Security is finally looking into the problem of liquid explosives, after ignoring it for years. DHS issued a Request for Information on Tuesday asking for technology which can detect liquid explosives. […]

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