Criminal Intelligence: Leadership Needed

Mar 15, 2010

Secrets may be meant to be kept, but when it comes to ­solving crimes, police organizations need to share information. When it comes to breaking organized crimes and destroying criminal networks, real “intelligence” needs to be shared securely.

By ensuring that strategic intelligence, in particular criminal intelligence pertaining to organized and serious crime, is appropriately stored and shared, police effectiveness and efficiency is maximized. And, although there are national entities in place that have been entrusted with the collection, storage and sharing of strategic intelligence, such as Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police and many others, the current governance and or overarching plan or process to ensure that all intelligence and information has the potential to be controlled by a single national entity which may not necessarily be representative of the Canadian policing community.

In Canada during the early 1960s, concerns were rising regarding the activities of organized crime and the ability of sophisticated criminals to infiltrate and corrupt even the highest of places including those of the executive offices of Ministers of the Crown. In July 1965, at the Federal-Provincial Conference of Premiers, the issue of organized crime received special attention from the premiers and they agreed to delegate this topic to be discussed at a further meeting of their attorneys general.

The Minister of Justice for the Province of Quebec, Hon. Claude Wagner, proposed the idea of a centralized crime intelligence bureau formed to collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence on organized criminal activity for the use of all police services in Canada. This body, said the report of the Conference, “should coordinate the struggle against organized crime in Canada.” To action this point of discussion, a resolution was passed and the Committee on Crime Intelligence was created, comprised of four senior police officials from across Canada.

The Committee’s commentary regarding the challenges faced by law enforcement in combating organized crime in the early 1960’s is more applicable than ever some forty years later:

“…the day has passed when police forces acting independently can control this menace. We are dealing with specialists in crime, a circumstance which demands a departure from established investigative techniques. Furthermore, we are dealing with crime at a time when modern science with its transportation, communication and other facilities defies any one police force to handle its crime problems single-handed. It is essential that a common effort of all the forces be rendered feasible by close liaison.”

The strategy required to mitigate this threat has yet to be fully realized:

“We emphasize that an efficient and effective apparatus for gathering and exchanging crime intelligence is contingent upon strong police participation at each level (local, provincial, national and international) within Canada, and through close co-operation with similar agencies in other countries… Only through the creation of mutual trust, confidence and respect between police forces and, of more importance, between the individual members of those forces, will we arrive at a satisfactory arrangement for the exchange of crime intelligence.”

It is important that the public safety, police and law enforcement leadership take the lead in establishing a national intelligence sharing process that captures the essence of activities relating to an “all hazards” approach and a mechanism in which this information is shared in a timely fashion. Furthermore, it is clear that this venture must result in public awareness and accountability but also support the men and women on the front line.

The Current environment in Canada, as it pertains to the sharing of Intelligence, is that it continues to function in a “stove pipe manner” with most of the key government agencies such as DND, CSE, CISC and RCMP maintaining their own data bases with no intra operability. In essence, the sharing and communication of intelligence continues to be based on relationships and interim agreements.

The USA found itself in a similar situation immediately after the attacks of 9/11 and proceeded to develop intelligence “Fusion Centers”. The main question facing the USA was: How can law enforcement, public safety, and private entities embrace a collaborative process to improve intelligence sharing and, ultimately, increase the ability to detect, prevent, and solve crimes while safeguarding our homeland?: The Fusion Center Guidelines state, in part, “The need to develop and share information and intelligence across all levels of government has significantly changed over the last few years. The longstanding information sharing challenges among law enforcement agencies, public safety agencies, and the private sector are slowly disappearing. Yet, the needs to identify, prevent, monitor, and respond to terrorist and criminal activities remains a significant need for the law enforcement, intelligence, public safety, and private sector communities.” The direction that has been set for the Fusion Centers is:

“Data fusion involves the exchange of information from different sources—including law enforcement, public safety, and the private sector—and, with analysis, can result in meaningful and actionable intelligence and information. The fusion process turns this information and intelligence into actionable knowledge. Fusion also allows for relentless re-evaluation of existing data in context with new data in order to provide constant updates. The public safety and private sector components are integral in the fusion process because they provide fusion centers with crime-related information, including risk and threat assessments, and subject-matter experts who can aid in threat identification.”

Recent, and ongoing, events have clearly demonstrated the urgent requirement for an appropriate “all-source” approach to the collection, storage and sharing of intelligence. There needs to be a well defined and functional interoperability amongst all intelligence agencies. As well, key issues such as governance, policy development, standardized and certified training that reflects the entire community are required. The ultimate goal is to provide a process through which all levels of government, law enforcement and the private sector can come together with a common purpose and improve the ability to protect the Canadian public and prevent criminal activity. There must be a process which maximizes available resources and builds trusted relationships in order to enhance information and intelligence sharing.

Almost 50 years ago the senior public safety and law enforcement leaders in Canada recognized that a collaborative and integrated response to combating organized crime was required. From those early meetings, the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada was born. Through these many years the CISC mandate has focused on intelligence pertaining to organized and serious crime affecting Canada. It has carried out this mandate in an environment where organized crime groups operate increasingly beyond the limits of one jurisdiction, enabled by new technologies, prompting law enforcement to approach the fight against organized crime in a multi-jurisdiction, multi-organization fashion. Experience over the past several decades has demonstrated that the criminal intelligence community must operate in a similarly integrated manner to deliver products and services that provide leaders in law enforcement, as well as government, the ability to develop strategies and policies to combat organized and serious crime. Unfortunately, recent events in Canada, as well as around the world have shown that intelligence can no longer operate in a segmented fashion, the mixing of criminal and terrorist activities have brought forth the weakness in this process.

Canada needs a new multi-faceted intelligence process designed to enhance the ability of local, provincial and federal criminal law enforcement and security agencies to identify, target, and remove threats and activities spanning multi-jurisdictional and, sometimes, international boundaries. The new system needs to facilitate rapid exchange and information sharing among the agencies regarding known or emerging threats and enhance coordination and communication amongst all agencies. For this to become a reality, Canada will need the same sort of leadership and vision that the government and law enforcement leaders demonstrated almost fifty years ago as it pertained to organized crime. However, this time what is required is a truly integrated intelligence process. This will require a state-of-the-art technological solution so that all threats to the Canadian public and the country’s critical infrastructure can be combated.

© FrontLine Security 2010