THE MAGAZINE

Smashing Intelligence Stovepipes

By Joseph Straw

Tools

Drake chuckles at the suggestion that outsiders may envision the center as a humming, Hollywood-style situation room, dimly lit by massive flat-screen televisions and computer monitors. “It’s actually much more boring that what you see on 24. It’s mostly cubicles,” he says.

The analysts, however, could not do their jobs without some high-tech software tools.

WAJAC’s analysts process most of their data using three data analysis and visualization software programs, Drake says: COPLINK, along with intelligence analysis applications from Pen-Link, Ltd., and i2 Inc. RISS also comes into the mix.

COPLINK is designed to link data across different government databases. But Drake says the center’s analysts have found RISS to be more useful. RISS provides a national connectivity “backbone” offered by no other system, says Drake. This allows even the smallest law enforcement agencies from every region in the state to participate in the fusion system.

The key to success for regional analysts is a strong relationship with local officials, RIG-7 Intelligence Analyst Shawn M. Mahood says. And one way to build that relationship is to ensure that communications go both ways. To avoid a common source of frustration among his local counterparts, Mahood makes sure to distribute intelligence down to locals, rather than just sending theirs “up” to Seattle.

Mahood drafts daily intelligence bulletins to RIG-7 law enforcement officials, combining national and international open-source material, items drawn from bulletins issued by the country’s 42 other state and regional fusion centers, and law enforcement sensitive material from within Washington State.

Private-Sector Partners

Nationally, the private sector has shown a reluctance to share information with fusion centers (see “Fusion Centers Should Work with ISACs,” Homeland Security, November 2007). But WAJAC is getting cooperation from one large player that may help to establish a national framework.

As WAJAC coalesced in the years after 9-11 alongside JTTF, former Seattle FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Scott Crabtree was “adamant” about getting Washington State’s major private sector entities involved, says Richard E. Hovel, Boeing’s senior aviation and homeland security advisor.

Boeing, the country’s largest aircraft manufacturer and second-largest defense contractor, was one of those entities. Boeing builds jetliners at plants in Renton and Everett, the latter home to the world’s largest building at 472 million cubic feet.

The idea met with trepidation within Boeing, Hovel says. But passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 convinced management of the need for an Information Sharing Environment linking the government, including states and fusion centers, to the private sector. It wanted to help make that happen.

Boeing’s goal is to place a full-time company intelligence analyst at WAJAC. But that’s easier said than done. Company officials, the Seattle FBI office, and officials representing WAJAC, including the Washington State Attorney General, have worked at length to cross the legal hurdles needed to do so.

The myriad parties to the arrangement have developed a memorandum of understanding, while Boeing itself has applied for coverage under the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002, which offers liability protection to companies providing products or services in support of domestic counterterrorism.

The difficulty of engaging the private sector is evident. Boeing had a leg up because of its specific sector. All of its corporate security officials already have the required security clearances, explains Hovel, “so we didn’t have to climb that hill.”

Even so, the company and state officials have yet to get all the permissions ironed out to get a Boeing person into the WAJAC facility.

Should those efforts succeed, Boeing and its government counterparts hope to create common templates that other companies and fusion centers can use to create memoranda of understanding and SAFETY Act applications. The templates, Hovel says, could be posted on llis.gov, the DHS Web portal for lessons learned and general preparedness information sharing.

Regional giants Starbucks Corporation, Amazon.com, Inc., and Alaska Airlines have also expressed interest in working with WAJAC, Gomez says. But officials are currently focused on Boeing, and success there could pave the way for other firms, says Drake.

Not every company will want to have the same physical presence that Boeing seeks, but they may want to attend briefings either regularly or as situations arise. To accommodate those needs, the FBI field office has set up space adjoining WAJAC.

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