Saturday, April 21, 2012
BREAKING: Without Warning, FBI Halts Intel Sharing Update
On March 1, the FBI stopped sharing vital terror intel with state and local officials without explanation. by Patrick Poole UPDATE The FBI has responded to our exclusive reporting this morning that they had cut off intelligence sharing of Terrorist Screening Center watch encounter reports to fusion centers nationwide. According to several fusion center officials interviewed today, the FBI is now saying that they will resume sending TSC watch encounter reports beginning next Monday. However, these reports will no longer contain Personal Information Intelligence (PII) related to the subject on the terror watch list. As one official said, “This is like promising us free bags of M&Ms, but without the M&Ms. There is practically nothing we can do with these reports without PII, which seems to be the FBI’s intent. They want to keep up the appearance of intel sharing without actually sharing intel.” We’ll bring you any further updates as this story unfolds. Without making a public or private announcement, the FBI has ended critical intelligence sharing with all 77 law enforcement fusion centers nationwide. This policy was implemented less than two days after a top FBI official told Congress about the FBI’s extensive efforts to share intelligence with state and local partners. On Monday, a state fusion center official told PJ Media: The FBI has effectively put us out of business. We are right back to September 10. Two other fusion center officials in other states confirmed the FBI’s new policy to PJ Media. On March 1, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) stopped sharing watch encounter reports with the fusion centers. The Watch Encounter reports document incidents of individuals on terror watch lists having encounters with state or local law enforcement. Until now, the Watch Encounter reports were forwarded to the fusion center responsible for the area where the encounter occurred. Since the TSC doesn’t share the terror watch lists with the fusion centers, the Watch Encounter reports were the only means that state officials had of knowing that someone on a terror watch list had either traveled to or lived in their area. Forwarding the watch encounter reports to the fusion centers had proved helpful to the FBI, according to a fusion center official: When we received these reports we would get the dash cam recordings from the department in question and even interview the officer who conducted the stop. We would then double-back to the FBI with the information. We also found that while the FBI field offices were supposed to be receiving these encounter reports, they were typically unaware that anything had happened. This official also claimed that the Watch Encounter reports are the core of the FBI’s intelligence-sharing program established after the 9/11 terror attacks: These reports have been the life blood of the system. Now all of the billions of taxpayer dollars spent building fusion centers all across the country are essentially wasted. On February 28, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence Eric Velez-Villar appeared before the House Homeland Security Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee. The hearing focused on the FBI’s intelligence sharing with state, local, and tribal law enforcement ten years after the 9/11 attacks. Velez-Villar discussed the importance of the fusion centers in the FBI’s investigative process: Fusion centers maximize our ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. They assist the FBI by providing information made available by the combination of knowledge, expertise, and information within local law enforcement and homeland security agencies operating throughout the nation, and our participation allows us to provide a national perspective on regional threats and trends so we can better inform decision makers at all levels. The exchange of intelligence that takes place in fusion centers aids other intelligence and law enforcement organizations — including the JTTFs — in their investigative operations and serves as a critical tool for collaboration at all levels. Two days later, the sharing stopped. Said another fusion center official who spoke with PJ Media on Tuesday: After a couple of days our analysts noticed that the reports had stopped coming. No notice, no explanation. Congressional staffers are now investigating, and a key point has been raised in the investigation: it appears the FBI may be required to provide such intelligence to the fusion centers by presidential executive orders and federal law. Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia.