Evaluating the Impact of Contextual Background Fusion on Unclassified Homeland Security Intelligence

By Eaneff, Charles | Homeland Security Affairs, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Evaluating the Impact of Contextual Background Fusion on Unclassified Homeland Security Intelligence


Eaneff, Charles, Homeland Security Affairs


introduction

The 2007 National Strategy for Information Sharing recognizes that state, local, and tribal governments "carry out their counterterrorism responsibilities within the broader context of their core mission(s)..." 1 In order for this national strategy to be successful, intelligence provided to these state, local, and tribal recipients must also be presented within the context of these core missions. Multiple initiatives have ensured that these non-traditional recipients (NTR) in law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services (EMS), emergency management, public health, and the private sector are now receiving unclassified intelligence products from multiple sources including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Fusion Centers, Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), and Terrorism Early Warning Groups (TEWG). However, simply pushing intelligence products to non traditional recipients (NTR) is not enough. As discussed in a Markle Foundation Working Group Report, Networking of Federal Government Agencies with State and Local Government and Private Sector Entities, "...adequate context for homeland security providers to effectively utilize information is specific, tailored for each local entity, rapidly disseminated, and does not overburden recipients with vague or irrelevant information." 2 The Final 9/11 Commission Report noted the importance of context in decision making, reporting that the president was provided intelligence "news without... much context" prior to September 11, 2001, contributing to a failure of decision makers to recognize that Bin Laden posed a "novel danger." 3

This paper does not attempt to determine whether providing classified or unclassified intelligence to NTR is an effective strategy. The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan cites the need to "identify technical means to aid and expedite the production of unclassified 'tear line' reports." 4 Department of Justice "Fusion Center Guidelines" (2006) document guidelines on the sharing of unclassified intelligence. The National Strategy for Homeland Security (2007) outlines the need to share intelligence with all levels of government. Clearly, the choice to share unclassified intelligence products has already been made. This article explains the impact of implementing contextual background fusion (CBF) with intelligence already provided to NTR in terms of the perceived value and quality of that intelligence.

Policy demands that more intelligence be shared with NTR; for that intelligence to be effectively utilized, decision makers must perceive both the value and quality of that intelligence. 5 Providing unclassified intelligence "on demand, in context" (a motto of the Congressional Research Service) is critical for millions of employees in NTR disciplines who incorporate that context into day-to-day decision making in public contacts, policy development, strategy, and tactics. In the absence of CBF by intelligence producers, open Internet searches by intelligence recipients can prove entirely inaccurate, degrading both the value and quality of the intelligence. For instance, a Google search that might be completed by a homeland security professional searching for contextual background on aircraft use in Islamic terrorist attacks, "Islamic terrorists kamikazes weapon aircraft" leads to a "Non Aligned Press Network" story where it is reported that the planes on 9/11 were flown utilizing remote controls by individuals in American government. The U.S. State Department attempts to identify such misinformation on USINFO.STATE.GOV. 6 If the intelligence producer fails to provide CBF with their product, NTR may find very authentic looking information on the Internet that, when combined with timely, accurate, and actionable intelligence, produces poor decisions. Failure to control the value and quality of the contextual background that will be utilized by NTR to understand intelligence is a failure to ensure the value and quality of that intelligence. …

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