Intelligence Public Safety

Jul 15, 2010

Actionable intelligence is the most needed tool that both law enforcement and national security policy makers must hone to combat the plethora of threats – from local gangs to the global crime syndicates. Biker gangs or street gangs are common, known threats to our communities. Although violence and property damage may seem like the extent of their reach, the financial networks into which they tap provide money laundering and racketeering opportunities that can elevate them into the same league as financial ­fraudsters such as Bernie Madoff.

A recent report by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, indicates that global annual fraud loss has reached an estimated 5% of commercial revenue, and small businesses are disproportionately victimized by fraud.

Fraud, Organized Crime and Terrorism
Serious invisible threats come from organized crime groups that cooperate with, and often include, international terrorists. They seek clandestine ways to obtain large sums of money and then feed that capital to organizations, like Al-Qaeda, that are committed to our extinction. The hidden nature of the threat cascades through the financial community and affects our overall security and safety. Done well, and many are, these threats engage everyone, whether you know it or not. Certainly not all international organized crime networks finance terrorism, but international terrorist organizations themselves engage in large-scale criminal activities, like drug and human trafficking, financial fraud, trade in contraband and other illegal activities in order to mobilize and deploy funds for their ­operations.

In terms of sophistication, the most ingenious form of organized crime may be tax evasion. American and European intelligence capabilities have been deployed to uncover massive tax evasion (in the billions) by their own citizens through Swiss and Lichtenstein banks. We are not immune from such criminal initiatives. Currently, these investigations are headed eastwards to Singapore and Hong Kong. Tax evasion is criminality on a massive scale, and Tax Intelligence (TAXINT) could become a valuable tool of government for tracing and uncovering these fiscal absconders. What’s more, TAXINT is cost-recoverable intelligence.

‘Fraud scheme,’ covers most if not all financial criminal activity that threatens us individually or collectively and implies deceit for gain. To be deceitful requires sophistication in planning and execution. All fraud schemes require clandestine activities such as hiding identity, method and motive. Fraud artists on any scale concoct believable stories. Therefore, short of imbuing all Canadians with an instinct to avoid fraudulent situations altogether, something needs to be done to allow law enforcement to detect, monitor, and interdict such organized criminal fraudsters.

In the last edition of FrontLine Security, Major Harold Bottoms argued for more leadership in the field of criminal intelligence. According to him, ‘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.’

This is a natural role for the Canadian Federal Government. The Finance department and regulators, CSE, CSIS, FINTRAC and the RCMP must cooperate, coordinate and share to produce valuable exploitable intelligence in a timely fashion. The time has ended for useless post facto finger pointing between stovepipe government bureaucracies in Royal Commission inquiries.

Intelligence is, by its very nature, a concept that works best through cooperation and sharing in a secure environment. The RCMP must cooperate with other law enforcement agencies and heed the advice of their peers. According to the 2008 report, Obstacles to an integrated, joint forces approach to organized crime enforcement – A Canadian case study by Stephen Schneider, ‘The walls that obstruct communication and cooperation between law enforcement and other government agencies in the fight against organized crime and terrorism must be torn down and replaced with institutions and commitments to a truly coordinated and strategic approach in order to better serve the public good.’

Protecting the community from organized crime or physical destruction would surely be enhanced through improved intelligence acquisition and sharing. The recent firebombing of a Royal Bank of Canada branch in Ottawa (because RBC supported the Olympics), is an example. Though the police captured the perpetrators through good use of intelligence, the fact that the incident was planned and executed by a group that had already been infiltrated by the police begs the question of why they had not been stopped or arrested earlier.

On a more dramatic scale, it is interesting to note that two of the worst terrorist attacks of our time – 9/11 and the Air India bombing might have been prevented with more effective intelligence exchange between government law enforcement agencies. In the case of 9/11, the CIA kept crucial information from the FBI. In Canada, according to the Report of the Air India Commission, CSIS withheld critical information from the RCMP.

Both terrorist disasters were financed by small amounts of money – about $10,000. Trying to catch terrorists by looking at the money trail alone in each case would have proved inadequate. As the Air India Commission stated, agencies should focus intelligence on determining how terrorists obtain their resources and then use this knowledge to defeat them through early detection and interdiction. For law enforcement to be effective against future terrorist threats, it must have secure systems to gather actionable intelligence that can be easily shared among agencies.

Applying Intelligence Beyond Law Enforcement
Public Safety Canada has recently shown itself to be able to make progress on substantive issues, including real program development assistance in the Emergency Management area. It has had recognized experts design and implement customized Emergency Management plans that all government departments must now implement.

Public Safety Canada (PSC) should expand its situational awareness responsibilities in its Federal Emergency Response Plan and ensure that it has a new, intelligence-driven mission plan to focus much of its operational mandate for public safety and national security. PSC needs to develop systems of intelligence gathering and processing that overlay each of the government departmental and PSC stovepipes and integrate its horizontal responsibilities for things like Critical Infrastructure (CI) and Emergency Management (EM). As a first step they should call in the experts to define a realistic aim and scope as was done for the Federal Emergency Management Plan.

In conjunction with such experts, PSC needs to determine what is reasonably accessible from public and private sector sources to apply against an emergency situation. Then, on a national level, the knowledge that comes from best practices and lessons learned experiences needs to be catalogued, made accessible and disseminated. Once the intelligence-based model has been developed, it can be adjusted to deliver the necessary information for all CI components and for all facets of all-hazards EM.

For community-based public safety programs to be designed and developed for maximum protection, a shared intelligence-driven focus will make our options clearer to all and solutions more easily accessed and readily achievable. For example, FrontLine Security has been following the initiative of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs called Partnership Towards Safer Communities. Public Safety Canada recently indicated support and contributory funding for this intelligence-oriented initiative. The PTSC-On-Line Project, as it is now being called, will use communities of EM groups to electronically share the elements of successful public safety measures and aid in standards development.

The PTSC On-Line Project is meant to become a self sustaining enterprise whereby all elements of the community share information, advice, tips, ideas, contacts, and any other feature that will add to the ability of the community to prevent, mitigate, respond to, or recover from a natural or man-made disaster.

Perhaps, at the end of the day, it is not too fantastical to think of a Canada where people are imbued with a better way of avoiding fraudulent situations altogether, because they are empowered to look after themselves and the government plays its proper role as enabler of the solution but does not aspire to be the sole and long term executor?

Edward R Myers is the Editor of FrontLine Security magazine.
© FrontLine Security 2010