Table of Contents
Information sharing among the intelligence arms is an important factor in protecting and mitigating the crime levels in the nation. When the right people receive the right intelligence information at the right time, it becomes easy to avert security threats in the nation. Ineffective sharing of the intelligence information between the federal agencies, states, and local authorities has been a major drawback in the America’s fight against terrorism and other forms of crime. Ineffective information sharing between the various security agencies in the US was blamed as a major weakness that provided vulnerability to the 9/11 terrorist attack. The establishment of the intelligence fusion centers was intended to a build an effective inter-agency information sharing mechanism to enhance the level of collaboration between various security agencies. Despite the incorporation of more than 20 domestic security agencies in the fusion centers, several obstacles continue to impede effective information sharing among the intelligence agencies and the enforcement agencies.
The information sharing is greatly affected by the complex structure of the intelligence community. The intelligence community is comprised of more than 20 security agencies which obtain information from various sources and analyze it before sharing with other agencies. Despite the incorporation of the various units to work towards the same goals, excessive specialization of the units limits the level of collaboration.
The specialization and differing set of skills creates a form of rivalry that impedes information sharing among the agencies. The various agencies are more bent into specialization rather than collaboration. The organizational structure creates boundaries that prompt each of the agencies to protect ownership of information which affects communication. Moreover, the environment in which the interagency collaboration exists is subject to federal, state and local laws. Bureaucratic rules also limit the interoperability of the interagency in the sharing of information. The complex structure of the intelligence community presents a complex environment for information sharing. The interagency relationships value personal trust at the expense of institutional trust. However, personal trust cannot help in mitigating and averting crime and achieving a shared objective.
The interagency sharing of information is also hindered by federal laws that were not changed. The system of government with different levels of government and the independence of state and local governments creates barriers that impede interagency collaboration. The PATRIOT and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts were intended to iron out issues that would impede effective interagency collaboration.
However, the Acts failed to iron out important bureaucratic restrictions that hinder communication and collaboration between agencies. For instance, the National Security Act of 1947 restricts the collaboration between the CIA and the internal security agencies. The restriction impedes the ability of the CIA to share information with agencies that deal with internal security affairs.
Moreover, the Posse Comitatus Act restricts the military from sharing information with the local authorities. Such laws act as a major impediment to the interagency collaboration and communication. The acts did not recommend changes to the organizational structure that would improve the efficiency of the various agencies.
Organizational culture continues to limit the gains intended from the interagency information sharing mechanisms put in place. Despite the changes put in place to streamline information sharing, most of the agencies have been slow to change limiting the level of success. The various agencies continue to apply dysfunctional sharing procedures that limit the effectiveness of the information shared. Technical issues in the security agencies have not been streamlined to enhance effective information sharing.
Trust is identified as one of essential element in developing networks for information sharing. Lack of interagency trust has limited the level of collaboration and effectiveness of the information sharing mechanisms. Top agencies are reluctant to share information with the lower rank agencies due to the desire to protect information source. For instance, FBI was blamed for failure to share intelligence information with the local authorities before the Boston Marathon bombing. The tension that exists on who should receive certain information continues to delay the ability of interagency to share information openly and freely.
The interagency collaboration lacks a common database where all the members of the intelligence community can get access to all intelligence information. There exists firewalled database that cannot be accessed by other agencies to acquire intelligence information. Each of the agencies uses a sophisticated form of technology system to protect its information. A common database for all the agencies would enhance the level of collaboration and success among the agencies. The agencies also lack a common physical point where they can access and share information. The existing technology in interagency collaboration is affected by the federal bureaucratic barriers. The federal laws require for a security clearance when transferring classified documents using the technological platforms. Interoperable communications are important to ensure timely transfer and sharing of information. It is important to share information on a timely basis to make it useful to the intended recipient.
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The success of the interagency information sharing can be improved when certain aspects are streamlined. It is important for the intelligence community to consider the following recommendations to improve efficacy in information sharing.
Improve information access
When information is available but not accessed by the right agency, it becomes irrelevant. It is important to have a technology system that will make it easy for those who need the information to access it.
Streamline Statutory and Federal Bureaucracies
It is important to iron out the federal and statutory regulations that impede sharing of information. Some of the Acts that create barriers should be revised to conform to the current needs.
Intelligence information is invaluable when it is shared promptly to those who need it. There have been several cases where information has been available but not shared with those who need. Such cases make the availability of information relevant to the failure to serve the intended purpose. It is important to review the barriers to effective information sharing and adopt effective measures to mitigate them. A lot of resources have been put in place to foster interagency collaboration, but the results have not been commensurate.
We can do it today.
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