Blue Line


November 18, 2014  By Ruben Sorge

by Ruben Sorge

The attack on New York’s twin towers was a game changer. The tragedy of that event sent shock waves through the intelligence community which continue to this day.

One of the key findings from the various investigations was a recognition of the need for intelligence agencies to become better at sharing. Simply put, the value of intelligence is found in the sharing.

The economics might look something like this: increased sharing is positively correlated with increased enforcement opportunities. The more we share intel, the more likely we will be focusing on the right criminals at the right time. This leads to more successful outcomes, which is particularly significant in combatting organized crime.

So, over a decade later have we improved our intel sharing? Clearly, the answer is æyes.’

Police leadership has cultivated an environment that accepts the need to share intelligence. This is an important cultural change. Today, analysts, investigators and police leaders are more inclined to share intelligence with colleagues in the intelligence community then ever before.

The more traditional predisposition among criminal intelligence (CI) practitioners was to keep intelligence compartmentalized. This idea is dying. A large cohort of young police officers will, over the next decade, become the ænew wave’ of police leaders. Many of these officers have spent much of their career accustomed to sharing vast amounts of digital data by way of cell phones, computers, cameras and a large array of digital devices.

This new information sharing mind-set provides an opportunity û it allows us to help construct the framework for broader, more comprehensive intelligence sharing by leveraging the knowledge and experience of those in intelligence. This strikes a superior balance between security and sharing. We now have an opportunity to help build the foundation for intelligence sharing in the future.

At first blush, this future may seem daunting, but in principle, it’s not. The intelligence sharing framework must include two key elements: first, a cultural commitment among CI practitioners to expansive intel sharing, and secondly a tool that allows for such sharing. The first is well on its way and the second is coming soon to a CI computer near you.

As part of a larger initiative to revitalize the national Automated Criminal Intelligence Information System (ACIIS), the RCMP has developed the Integrated Information Service (IIS). This search engine will link various databases and allow an analyst to run a query and receive information from multiple databases.

IIS provides the opportunity for all CI analysts to have timely access to the same extensive data sets. Intelligence sharing becomes more a function of the level of access to these databases and the efficacy of the query submitted. This process is less dependent on individual relationships and subject matter experts, although these factors remain an integral part of the intelligence enterprise.

IIS allows the CI community to engage in a broad and extensive sharing of intelligence, yet some important questions must be addressed. How do we classify intelligence and how do we manage appropriate levels of access to intelligence data? ACIIS provides a possible solution.

At its most elementary level, intelligence data may be said to fall into two categories: non-restricted and restricted. Under this simple model the vast majority (90-95 per cent) is, or should be, non-restricted. It seems reasonable that all CI analysts and investigators should have access to all non-restricted data. Effectively, this means always working with comprehensive and current data.

IIS searches across police and intel data bases to provide a uniform and inclusive query result. Some may ask if non-CI analysts or police officers (for instance, compstat analysts or GD/patrol officers) have the same access to the information. They do not. Instead, access to sensitive data bases like ACIIS remains accessible only to CI practitioners who have been security cleared and vetted.

The need to include restricted records in an intelligence environment is perhaps self-evident, because it contains some of the most valuable, even vital, intelligence. We also understand that there are critical reasons to restrict records: national security, protecting the identities of UC operators or informants, and, at times, ensuring police investigative techniques are not revealed.

Restricted records are a necessary fact of life in the intel world. However, while CI analysts may not have access to all records they should be aware that a restricted record exists. If an analyst knows about the record, he/she can contact the owner to determine if it can be shared and, if so, to what extent.

Although some restricted records, perhaps involving terrorism or corruption, may be appropriately hidden, these would represent an appropriate security measure in rare circumstance. Evens so, allowing for an awareness of restricted records is a superior position to one in which an analyst has no awareness. If the record holder agrees to share, the analyst’s intelligence pool just got so much deeper.

Even if the holder elects to deny access, both the record holder and CI analyst know that other police agencies may be involved. This scenario enhances information sharing, reduces conflicts, improves officer safety and informs resource allocation. This form of intel sharing is a æmust’ given today’s complex organized crime environment.

We have an opportunity before us. Information technology has given us the capability to ensure that our intelligence analysts have wide and encompassing access to non-restricted intelligence data. Additionally, while being attentive to third-party rule, our analysts should, in most cases, be aware restricted records exist while recognizing that some will be held in complete secrecy. This is entirely appropriate.

The challenge may be found in committing ourselves to the expansive sharing of non-restricted intel as a maturing cultural norm. As part of this normative progression, we should also recognize that analysts should be alerted to the existence of restricted records as related to their specific query. Analysts would thereby know that additional, high value intelligence exists.

To get access analysts would have to provide a justification to the record holder that would warrant access. The holder will determine, based on agency policy, whether to refuse access, provide partial access or grant full access. In this way analysts will have knowledge and potential access to an expansive intelligence data set.

The sharing environment described here ensures that our intelligence driven products are robust, sourced, timely and can be validated. Law enforcement agencies need the very best available intel products to combat one of the most difficult crime problems our society and policing faces: organized crime. A steadfast commitment to developing this intelligence sharing environment is a key component to maximizing successful law enforcement efforts in the future.


Ruben Sorge is an RCMP inspector working with the Criminal Intelligence Services in British Columbia and the Yukon. Contact:

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