Despite the fact that in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, it became accepted wisdom that the weaving together of counterterrorism efforts at the local, state, and federal levels is critical — a decade later, there is a consensus among the police intelligence commanders for the fifty-six largest American cities that the nation lacks an adequate understanding of the counterterrorism intelligence enterprise.
This was a finding in our just-released research brief — “Counterterrorism Intelligence: Law Enforcement Perspectives.” This brief is the first in a series that aims to bring some additional science to the art of intelligence and point a way forward toward a more robust intelligence capacity. It should also help in identifying the greatest operational gaps, needs and shortfalls, and help make the case for targeting resources to the programs and policies that will yield greatest benefits to our national and homeland security – an issue that takes on even greater salience given our current budget climate.
We administered a research survey to the Intelligence Unit Commanders Group of the Major Cities Chiefs Association at a meeting in Los Angeles.
The bottom line is this – HSPI’s poll of section chiefs from the intelligence units of major metropolitan police forces in the United States found the following:
- Homegrown and foreign-directed jihadi terrorism and radicalization are perceived as a real threat by local law enforcement in the United States.
- Nearly a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, there continues to be gaps in the types of intelligence products to which local law enforcement has access.
- A majority of those polled cite the need for increased analytical capabilities at the local, state, and federal levels.
- At the local level, citizens and traditional police work continue to be the primary source for counterterrorism information.
- Intelligence collection is viewed as a shared responsibility between local and federal officials.
- There is significant support for the nationwide suspicious activity reporting initiative (NSI).
- Among federal partners, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces are viewed as the most important source of counterterrorism information.
- There is an untapped willingness for increased information sharing (even the sharing of confidential informants) among local law enforcement.
- Local law enforcement values well trained and skilled individuals more than technology, and given the choice would invest more in people and less in gadgetry.
This is particularly troubling given that there have been fifty-two homegrown jihadi terror plots since the attacks of 9/11. More disturbing than the raw numbers, however, is the increasing trend. From September 11, 2001, through May 2009, a span of ninety-two months, there were twenty-one homegrown terror plots. In the eighteen months that followed, from June 2009 until November 2010, there were more than twenty-three. Since November 2010, there have been eight more homegrown plots. The trend is toward an increasing homegrown threat that has significant implications for American national security and the manner in which the United States conducts counterterrorism.
Based on the study, we argue there exists the potential for a more robust national intelligence enterprise – one that could enhance the counterterrorism efforts of the United States at the local, state, regional and federal levels.
I invite you to click here and download the research brief.