Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Network Fusion: Information and Intelligence Sharing for a Networked World

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Network Fusion: Information and Intelligence Sharing for a Networked World

Article excerpt


In April of 2004, a surreal meeting took place in a small restaurant in Monterey, California between a Minneapolis FBI agent and a New York City fire chief. The FBI agent described his experience of the days leading up to 9/11 and wanting to obtain a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He became so frustrated with the system, which did not more aggressively pursue a search warrant and lacked any urgency for sharing information, that, at one point, he blurted out to his supervisors that he was "just trying to stop someone from taking a plane and crashing it into the World Trade Center." Little did he know how prophetic his statement would turn out to be. The 9/11 Commission Report described the month before the attacks as a "system blinking red" with warnings. Then I told an equally distressing story of never being told on September 11 about police helicopters' observations that the top fifteen floors of the North Tower, which I was in, were "glowing red" with fire and that the corner of the building was starting to buckle. These historical eyewitness accounts illustrate that the systems for intelligence and information sharing were "blinking red" for 9/11. While there have been improvements in distributing information, some wonder if information sharing and collaborative systems are still blinking red in today's networked world.1

Many in the intelligence and first-responder communities would like to believe that commissions, studies, new policies, and executive orders have solved the United States' information and intelligence sharing problems. Yet "the same enduring realities that prevented adaptation before 9/11 have stymied adaptation even in the aftermath of tragedy."2 The problem is that organizations, by their command and control design, are not structured for collaboration. The struggle that ensues is how to achieve connectivity for sharing information, within a system inhibited by organizations determined to pursue disconnectedness as a means for power and control.3

The disconnect that exists between organizations creates information asymmetries, which produce two consequences. The first is the inability to prevent an attack from occurring. Without information, organizations are helpless to stop terrorism. The second focuses on an organization's powerlessness to adequately mitigate and respond to terrorist incidents, when there is a lack of understanding of the threat environment. Terrorism will continue to challenge society because it cannot be totally prevented, which necessitates the expansion of our present information sharing and intelligence system to contain policies for resilience.

A new design for organizations to share information and intelligence may be found in the form of network fusion, which connects not only the law enforcement and intelligence communities for prevention and protection purposes, but also other key components of the emergency responder community - such as fire departments and health care systems - for mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. Together all organizations can benefit from and contribute to the critical mission areas of homeland security through the power of networks.

Finding new approaches for collaboration may be less a matter of innovation and more a matter of discovering what is already done by organizations. Stephen Cohen and William Eimicke from Columbia University observe that organizations are becoming increasingly connected through inter-organizational networks.4 They argue that government is moving away from the traditional hierarchical model that dominated the twentieth century and toward a more fluid continuum of organizational collaboration.5 This trend means that organizations now are more likely to be connected horizontally and look outward toward other organizations for necessary functions. …

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