A lack of information sharing is likely to be a stumbling block to implementing an effective homeland security strategy. There are currently two significant obstacles when it comes to intelligence, information sharing and fighting crime and terrorism. The fragmented nature of data collection and incident reporting among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies hinders their ability to connect information that may point to terrorist plots or other ongoing criminal activity (National Governors Association , 2007). Secondly, the private sector which owns a significant amount of data as well as majority of the country’s critical infrastructure is often not connected to the homeland security intelligence and information-sharing networks. This information-sharing problem can be resolved by:
- creating intelligence fusion centers that bring together law enforcement, intelligence, emergency management, public health, and other agencies, and the variety of information they collect into one central location
- joining national efforts that encourage intelligence and information sharing and include regional, multistate, and federal systems
- Utilizing national standards for information sharing that foster the ability of systems to exchange data.
Intelligence Fusion Centers
Fusion center were created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and they were intended to improve homeland security by solving the information-sharing gaps among the different components of the intelligence community. Though fusion centers vary from state to state, most contain similar elements, including members of state law enforcement, public health, social services, public safety, and public works organizations. Increasingly, federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms station representatives at state-level fusion centers. State and federal representatives input into a fusion center’s database a broad spectrum of information, including the location and capabilities of area hospitals, details from calls to the state’s 911 emergency hotline, and names from federal terrorism watch lists. This data pool is then drawn on to form a clearer picture of threats facing each state. In addition, it helps inform police investigations, contingency planning, and emergency response. Experts say putting this information at the fingertips of local law enforcement transforms police officers from first responders into “first preventers.” The idea is that the next time a would-be terrorist on a government watch list is pulled over for speeding, the officer at the scene will have the information he needs. Placing federal representatives alongside local officials also helps to ensure more timely delivery of information. In the past, state and local authorities often received warnings only in times of immediate danger.
Challenges to Intelligence and Information Sharing
Even though some information-sharing initiatives implemented have gained some success, there are still a number of challenges that need to be addressed so that integration of information from intelligence, law enforcement, public safety, and other agencies across all levels of governments can be seamless. These challenges include: the existence of too many federal information-sharing networks, security clearance issues and privacy issues that cause fear of lawsuits.
National Governors Association . (2007). A Governor’s Guide to Homeland Security. National Governors Association .
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