Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Wisdom From Former MI5 Head

In the Monday, January 3, 2005, OpinionJournal piece entitled 'Humint' Begins at Home', former British MI5 head Stella Riminigton provided some wisdom and insight about effective counter-terrorism.

Effective counter-terrorism may begin closer to home rather than in distant lands. This is hardly news to security professionals. Organized terrorist groups always conduct on-site target assessment prior to an attack. Skillful countersurveillance can detect target surveillance and assessment by an adversary's target intelligence gatherers. As Ms. Rimington so concisely put it, "...individual operations are planned and prepared much closer to where they are carried out."

She also wisely noted that if the public sees something suspicious, something that just does not look quite right, "...the public needs to know how to report its concerns and to be made to feel welcome when it does." I emphasized the last portion, because too often, law enforcement officials fail to listen carefully and patiently to a citizen. Or, as we learned from the post-9-11 reporting, perceptive FBI agents in field offices did listen to local sources, did report unusual patterns and behaviors of students seeking flight training, and were ignored by their superiors at headquarters. (Federal agencies ignore each other based on an informal but highly rigid principle known as "Not Invented Here". Agency headquarters ignore its own subordinate field elements based on the equally time-honored principle of "Not Invented At Headquarters.")

Law enforcement and security agencies in the United States must learn to communicate effectively with citizens. The absence of a badge does not equate with the absence of useful, credible information and insight. And the agencies need to provide citizens with feedback, constructive feedback, instructive feedback, feedback that does not demean the citizens and discourage future reporting but encourages the citizen to observe and report more effectively.


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