to be working on."
Observers point to the FBI's success as a prosecutorial agency as one of its deficiencies in dealing with terrorist threats. The agency has traditionally viewed data collection in terms of an investigation that will result in a prosecution. It doesn't share the data and, thus, warnings of imminent danger have been late.
"How they deal with information works exceedingly well for the law enforcement mission as traditionally defined," said Michele Flournoy, senior advisor of the CSIS International Security Program. "But when you take it into the domain of counter terrorism where success depends on a network between intelligence, law enforcement and other agencies, their culture becomes an impediment to success."
A Herculean Challenge
The new Office of Homeland Security, headed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, will be charged with closing the gaps in the country's law enforcement and intelligence operations. Ridge recently challenged law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which have a habit of being stingy with information, to "open the lines of communication like never before."
"I get a sense that you're going to get some real traction and movement from the Office of Homeland Security, which is trying to look at how to fuse and mine information, not just between the feds but between the feds and state and local governments to get down to the tip of the spear," Cilluffo said.
It will be a Herculean challenge; but one that is not really new, Cilluffo said. "If you look at counter narcotics, they've had this challenge for quite some time. The way it started working was through joint task forces," he said. A New York task force comprised of the New York Police Department, the FBI, U.S. Customs and state and local agencies eventually developed a working relationship. "They didn't want to share information before they actually saw who was the user of that information," Cilluffo said. "You need to build trust and you need to build it fast in this case."
It will be difficult, not only culturally but structurally as well.
For the most part, each law enforcement agency has its own unique procedures and protocol. Adapting those to mesh with other agencies will mean changing the procedures and the technology, said Philip Agre, associate professor of information studies at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"Every computer system grows up in a certain ecology and it intertwines with everything around it [in an organization], the language, the procedures, the rules, the politics, everything," Agre said. "That's why it's extremely hard to change. You're not just changing software, you're changing the organization."