Friday, September 13, 2013

Remembering 9-11, How far have we come, what still needs to be done?

On the twelfth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on United States soil,  we reflect back on those who were lost on that fateful day.  We remember the heroes and where we were.  How far have we come in the journey of grief and how far must we continue to go in striving to protect the innocent from another senseless act of violence by Islamic extremists?
Have we done all that is necessary to improve our chances of detecting another plot?  Are all tools in place to assist both Counter Terrorism and Law Enforcement Agencies in their job?  Sadly the answer is no.  While we have had many success stories of thwarted plots both by foreign and homegrown terrorists, there is still a ways to go.
One of the areas that desperately needs improvement is in information sharing between Federal, State, and Local agencies.  A stark reminder of this was the Boston Marathon attack.  What was previously known, by whom, and what was withheld, are questions still demanding to be answered in a satisfactory manner.
Did we not know that this, information sharing,  was vitally important? Yes we did.  Sadly we don't often follow our own initiatives.

The 9-11 Commission in it's final report stated the following: "The United States has the resources and the people.  The government should combine them more effectively, achieving unity of effort.  We offer five major recommendations to do that."

One of the five was;  Unifying the many participants in the counterterrorism effort and their knowledge in a network- based information-sharing system that transcends traditional governmental boundaries."

This objective has not yet been fully achieved.  Progress has been made in the development of the National Data Exchange Program (N-Dex), but full participation by all the Agencies has not been accomplished.  One of the problems causing this is a basic lack of trust between Federal, State, and Local Criminal Justice / Intelligence agencies.  It is based on historic cultural differences that run deep within both the law enforcement and intelligence communities.  Often it comes down to a game of "Texas Hold-em"  where each player waits for the other to show his cards before he will disclose his own.
   Old town rivalries are admired in sports.  In combating terrorism and crime, they are unhealthy and detrimental.
 We do indeed have the resources and the people to accomplish the goal of a unified information sharing system, but only if we, the professionals,  lay aside the old mistrusts and hesitancy to share what we know, when we know it.
The memory of those who lost there lives on that day demands no less.