Report: Nation's Top Cops Say U.S. Counterterror Effort Is Lacking

Police chiefs ask for more intel and analysis as domestic terror threat grows.

ByABC News
September 6, 2011, 7:02 PM

Sept. 7, 2011 — -- Ten years after 9/11, top cops in the nation's biggest cities feel there are still significant gaps in the intelligence and analysis they receive about terrorism, even as the homegrown terror threat looms larger.

A survey of intelligence commanders from America's 56 biggest cities conducted by the Homeland Security Policy Institute found the police chiefs believe the nation's intelligence enterprise is less robust than it could be, and that 62 percent of the chiefs felt this lack left them "unable to develop a complete understanding of their local threat."

"There is a consensus that the U.S. lacks an adequate understanding of the intelligence enterprise as it relates to counterterrorism," says the HSPI's research brief, slated to be released today. "As a result, intelligence capabilities are lacking, collection is haphazard, resources are underutilized, and the U.S. has a limited ability to develop anticipatory knowledge concerning future attacks, mitigate risks or respond to emerging threats."

The report, called "Counterterrorism Intelligence: Law Enforcement Perspectives," notes that local law enforcement is often the "first and last line" of defense against terrorism, and cites the importance of integrating policing and counterterrorism activities in the face of a threat that "increasingly blends foreign and domestic events, resources, direction and operators."

The evolving nature of the terror threat, says the report, is "evidenced by the discovery of more than 52 homegrown terror plots since Sept. 11, 2001," the bulk of which have occurred in the past two years. "It is the observed operational trend," says the report, "toward internally-fused, locally-realized terrorism" that "signals the increasingly important role local law enforcement will play in countering it."

In fact, according to the survey, "citizens and traditional work remain the primary source for counterterrorism information" at the local level.

The 44-question survey was distributed to intelligence commanders at a meeting of the Intelligence Unit Commanders Group of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, a police organization that draws on top officers from 70 cities in the U.S. and Canada. HSPI noted in the report that the small data set certainly raised questions as to whether the findings could be applied broadly. Nonetheless, the authors noted, the individuals polled were positioned to provide the best small sample of "how local law enforcement views the intelligence enterprise as it relates to counterterrorism."

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The Homeland Security Policy Institute, based at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is a non-partisan think tank founded in 2003. Its stated mission is to bring policy makers and law enforcement professionals together to "build bridges between theory and practice to advance homeland security."

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