Counter-Terrorism: The Security Clearance Curse Cripples Cops



February 24, 2007: The United States has a serious problems with security clearances (or the lack of them) and attempts to share intelligence data with local police. The Department of Homeland Security has encouraged local police to share intelligence data with them, so that "fusion centers" (facilities where all the data is combined) can analyze it and provide a more useful picture of who might be up to what. The problem is that, when Department of Homeland Security gets the local data, and combines it with federal data, the new collection (a computer database) becomes classified. You need a security clearance to get at it. There are very few people with suitable security clearances at the local level. While, in theory, the Department of Homeland Security people should be spotting important things, and reporting back to the local level, this often does not happen. So there's no incentive for the local police to cooperate with Department of Homeland Security, since the local police cannot access their data once the Department of Homeland Security has it. Getting local police security clearances is not an option either, as there is a huge backlog for security clearances already in the works (background investigations are labor intensive.) As a result, the local police build their own databases, which are not able to catch known (in other jurisdictions) terrorist suspects that come by. So while federal officials, and Congress, want local police to get more integrated with Department of Homeland Security data collection and analysis, the security clearance problem presents an insurmountable obstacle.


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