November 13, 2008 By Corey McKenna
Earlier this week at the IACP Conference in San Diego, FBI Director, Robert S. Mueller III, highlighted the need for all levels of government to share intelligence to accomplish their law enforcement and counterterrorism missions.
Mueller, in his prepared remarks, said the only way for the law enforcement community to accomplish each of its missions is by using intelligence and technology and "determining what we know, what we don't know and finding ways to fill the gaps."
Mueller recalled a quote by Mark Twain who said "it is wiser to find out than suppose" to emphasize the value of intelligence to addressing the convergent threats of crime and terrorism, where local gangs and international cartels can cooperate.
Mueller emphasized the importance of law enforcement agencies knowing their domain. This means "understanding every inch of a given community -- its geography, its populations, its economy and its vulnerabilities," he said.
He offered San Diego as an example of a city where multiple law enforcement missions -- including combating crime, border security and counterterrorism -- converge. Not only is San Diego a hub of biotechnology, telecommunications and software engineering, but it has a major port and many military installations. It is also home to national sports teams and several colleges and universities, not to mention the nearby border the state shares with Mexico.
While this makes for a vibrant community, it also provides multiple high-value terrorist targets and the cross-border traffic presents a challenge to law enforcement apprehending criminals that may be plotting or financing acts of terrorism. He noted that two of the hijackers involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks lived in San Diego as they prepared for the attacks.
One of the most important lessons the FBI learned from the September 11th attacks, Mueller said, is the need for better collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence. To that end, the FBI built a framework to manage intelligence. "We created Field Intelligence Groups in each of our field offices. We improved both the quantity and quality of our intelligence reports. We upgraded our technology and expanded our task forces to make sure our partners had access to our intelligence," Mueller said.
And while these efforts were directed at the FBI's mission of preventing terrorism, Mueller noted they can be of benefit to state and local law enforcement in keeping the nation's communities safe. "Every day we are leveraging these tools to fight crime together," he said.
The bureau is using mapping technology, joint task forces and CompStat to work much more cooperatively with local law enforcement agencies. The FBI's implementation of mapping technology, which it has piloted in many cities, is known as Project PinPoint. It allows the bureau to combine and plot crime data from multiple agencies -- from shootings to sources and from outstanding warrants to open investigations.
Mueller said the promise of geospatially plotted data is that "any crime data can be compared to any other investigative data set. And it is when we combine the FBI's data with your data that we can view intelligence in a whole new light. It is one thing to suppose there might be a connection between firearms seizures, narcotics arrests and shootings in a certain quadrant of your city," he said. "It is another thing to find out by seeing the connections on a computer screen."
"For once, it was just like on Law & Order," Mueller said, recalling the investigation of the shooting death of a nine-year-old boy in Philadelphia. In 2005,
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