Considering Civil Liberties

By Matthew Harwood

Next, agencies must apply the federal government’s SAR standard, specifically the ISE-SAR Functional Standard v.1.5, which reiterates that the program must respect constitutional safeguards when gathering and sharing information. Finally, participating agencies’ personnel must receive privacy training.

It’s the NSI-PMO’s job to ensure that agencies integrated into the program understand what constitutes suspicious activity and what does not, says Senior Advisor Steven King. To do this, the NSI-PMO has developed three levels of training for local and state law enforcement officers. The three levels consist of executives, analysts, and cops on the beat; the training is intended to ensure that participants know what’s expected of them when it comes to protecting citizens’ civil liberties and privacy rights. Additionally, the NSI-PMO has enlisted the help of police associations—including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association—as well as state and major urban area fusion centers to train officers nationwide.

For front-line officers, King emphasizes that the training instructs them to watch out for 16 different behaviors—for example, security testing, storing weapons caches, and surveillance—that could indicate terrorist activity. It stresses that an officer should never home in on individuals because of their race, religion, or ethnicity without the appropriate context.

The behaviors selected are not arbitrary or speculative. “They are behaviors that have been gleaned out of past terrorism events, domestically or internationally, where we have used the post-action investigative validate that these in fact were precursors to terrorist events,” says O’Reilly.

Approximately 46,000 front-line federal, state, local, and private sector partners have already received NSI training, according to the DHS. The NSI-PMO’s goal, however, is daring: train all of the country’s 800,000 law enforcement officers on how to identify and report suspicious activities related to terrorism, O’Reilly relates. “We want to make sure that there are no transgressions” committed by police officers, he says, and that “civil liberties and privacy rights of citizens are protected.”

Technical requirements also exist to ensure that personally identifiable information (PII) is protected when agencies share that data. Before every search, the system asks analysts, primarily at fusion centers, to articulate the purpose of each search they conduct. O’Reilly says this reduces the chance that analysts will go on fishing expeditions.



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