Domestically, How are We Doing on National Security?
Basically until the 9/11/01 attacks, local and state law enforcement was asleep and unaware of the magnitude of a problem not just on the horizon, but already entrenched in our towns and cities. That is especially true of the small and medium size departments, which were not members of a FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Large departments, such as the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office, have enjoyed the luxury of holding full membership on the LA JTTF for many years. JTTF members are privy to a large amount of information concerning terrorist organizations and supporters present in the U.S. Unfortunately, that information is only sparingly and occassionaly shared with non-member agencies even though the target individuals often work and live in a non-member’s jurisdiction. And, information that is potentially available from smaller agencies may not ever see the light of day or be passed to a JTTF.
The failure to communicate cross jurisdictionally is based on some real world problems. Any system of vital information sharing is primed for failure, or at least is far less effective, when all the players are not sitting down at the same table. First, and foremost, is the problem that JTTF information is federally classified and access requires an appropriate federal security clearance. Those clearances are not easy to come by and take a long time to acquire after it has been demonstrated that a recipient officer is to become an active participant in an investigation. And, becoming an active investigative participant requires relief from other law enforcement duties. That means increased cost to the local department. Well you might ask, why don’t the local police departments just step up to the bar and do the right thing by demanding membership in a JTTF and fund this vital function? The answer is really quite simple. A majority of the mid-size and smaller local agencies do not have a dedicated intelligence function in their organization. Whether they have an intelligence unit or not, if they are not members of a JTTF they are deprived of the true status of the threat and don’t realize the significance of the need. Consequently, those authorities are liable to look upon an intelligence function as less vital than other traditional law enforcement functions. We might just as well state that ignorance is bliss. Or, perhaps it is a little bit of the “it won’t happen in my backyard,” and if it happens it will be in that big city somewhere else. Not necessarily true. An example is the recent Lodi, CA, case. In essence, the failure of any police department to embrace an intelligence function as a full partner in the national security effort is betting that nothing will happen in their jurisdiction. I do not accept that premise. We have some responsibility to the citizens of jurisdictions other than our own that may be harmed by terrorists currently in our jurisdiction. The 9-11 hijackers lived in smaller jurisdictions while they trained and waited to commit their terrorist acts. History could have been altered if the smaller jurisdictions had been proactively chasing terrorist leads?
The Rand Corporation released a study entitled, “Think Locally, Act Nationally,” examining the problem of the intelligence function. More precisely, the study highlighted the general lack of a non-federal intelligence component. The study is based on 2002 data, and they acknowledge that the results may not reflect in some instances the current status. I am betting that the Rand conclusions are as accurate today as they were in 2002. There is some evidence that as we move away from 9-11 that there is a retreat from the intelligence function. The study stated:
Virtually everyone agrees that the U.S. war on terrorism should involve local police departments and state law enforcement agencies. Nonetheless, such efforts have been spotty, incomplete, and devoid of a coordinated national strategy.
…we found the paucity of local capacity for intelligence analysis to be striking. Only the very largest police departments have any analytic capacity at all.
… the bulk of local intelligence activity is now concentrated among larger police agencies that typically pay for the work themselves, receiving little or no explicit federal support.
In fact, the federal government today is showing less interest in providing such support than it once did.Local agencies must begin to think nationally, and the federal government must orchestrate a truly national intelligence effort encompassing as active partners all law enforcement. To do otherwise is irresponsible.
There you have it folks. Many of your local law enforcement agencies are not doing the job that they should relative to national security. And, the federal government is not taking an adequate lead in solving the problem. That’s my opinion; maybe it’s yours as well. Let’s start being a squeaky wheel before we are reduced to crying for our losses.