THE MAGAZINE

A Model of Intelligence Sharing

By Matthew Harwood

That’s not to say they didn’t need some of each of those. CIAC has taken full advantage of federal funding opportunities, which is critical to keeping the CIAC running. In fiscal year 2012, the center’s budget is $1.8 million, two-thirds of which comes from federal grants. The CIAC’s staff has also grown from its original staff of three to 34, but that includes many people on loan from partner agencies, who aren’t paid out of the CIAC’s budget.

Partnerships

In the eastern region of the United States, state police departments typically own and operate fusion centers, whereas west of the Mississippi it’s more typical for state patrols to own and operate these centers. Jurisdiction is why this distinction matters. In Colorado, the state patrol’s jurisdiction is limited to mainly traffic enforcement, while state police departments generally are the lead law enforcement agency for all crimes.

“You’ve heard of the FBI coming in [and saying] ‘We’re in charge,’” explains Garcia. “That’s what the state police can do.”
State patrols don’t have that luxury so any law enforcement participation in the CIAC was going to have to be earned, particularly among Colorado’s 64 county sheriffs’ departments, because in Colorado, police authority rests largely at the county level.

The most powerful policemen in the state are sheriffs, and they guard their jurisdiction vigilantly, says Wolfinbarger. Therefore, CIAC wasn’t in a position to insist on sharing; it had to get sheriffs’ departments to want to work with the fusion center and to get them to see how they could benefit from its ability to take in grassroots intelligence, handle it responsibly, store it securely, and create helpful intelligence products.

Currently, about one-third of sheriffs actively receive and share information with the CIAC—a number Garcia is always trying to increase. Chris Olson, the new executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, tells Security Management that the association encourages newly elected sheriffs across Colorado to partner with the CIAC. “It’s a valuable thing to do,” he says.

But the CIAC had to do more than create partnerships with state and local officials; it also had to establish top-down relationships with the federal government, especially the FBI and the then newly established Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It has done that successfully. As a result, today, CIAC boasts participation from representatives of 15 different organizations within the state and at the federal level, including DHS; the FBI; the Secret Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

One of the most important things that the CIAC did right was establish its credibility with the FBI’s Denver Field Office and its Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), says Leffler. Like all fusion centers, the CIAC hands off any actionable intelligence immediately to the FBI, in its case, to the Denver JTTF for it to investigate further. After 9-11, the FBI became the lead law enforcement agency for terrorism investigations in the United States. “We had to prove our worth,” Leffler says, meaning the CIAC had to prove to the FBI that it wouldn’t harm its investigations by disclosing sensitive information or tipping off suspects that they were on law enforcement’s radar.

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