Local law enforcement constitutes a critical layer in
identifying, developing and tapping tactical criminal
intelligence sources which can be useful for both
domestic and foreign intelligence enterprises.  Today,
for example, major metropolitan law enforcement
police units can easily and readily move in and out of
local, national or even international jurisdictions and
The major limitation in a traditional criminal justice
degree, therefore, is that the investigative and
prosecutorial process only begins after a crime has
been committed – it is a post mortem activity that
occurs after the damage has been done.
With every new counterterrorism, intelligence, and
law enforcement strategy or technique requires
equally dynamic and robust education and
classroom training.
Intelligence &
Future of Law Enforcement:
Intelligence & Counterterrorism
By Jeremy Tamsett, MA
In the post-9/11 era, it has become clear that law
enforcement has a major role to play in homeland
security, intelligence, and counterterrorism
operations in the United States.  The potential for
collaboration between transnational criminal groups
and terrorist networks pose significant security
challenges.  This is one growing area of concern
where law enforcement and intelligence are
increasing focus and investment.  

The Role of Federal and Local Law
Enforcement and Intelligence

The line between foreign and domestic intelligence
collection is gray and thinning.  States and
municipalities play a vitally important role in the
collection and analysis of intelligence related to
counterterrorism.  Many large metropolitan
jurisdictions in the aftermath of 9/11 have
established their own intelligence efforts, optimized
for local conditions and perceived community
needs.    Subsequently, local and state law
enforcement intelligence analysis has expanded to
include both counterterrorism and assorted threats
to national security: Law enforcement is no longer
confined to merely local activity
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is an
example of a local, municipal law enforcement
agency that has formed partnerships with federal
law enforcement and the intelligence community.  
Formed in 2002, NYPD was the Nation’s first police
force to have a separate office dedicated to the
counterterrorism mission – a model that is slowly
but surely being adopted by other major
metropolitan locations.  

Through the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)’s
partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), NYC police has access to national level
classified intelligence, which enables the Department
to work with the FBI on international terrorism
investigations.  But it also enables NYC police within
the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Divisions to
gather, analyze, and disseminate intelligence
through both open source and classified channels
to city, state, and federal law enforcement and
intelligence agencies.   In addition, the Department
has participated in international investigations and
has police liaisons in 10 cities around the world.   

The Unique Value that Police Bring to
Counterterrorism and Intelligence

Law enforcement agencies in every city around the
globe are uniquely positioned to best understand
the threat environment of their local communities.  
The idea here is that knowledge about aberrant and
anomalistic activity in local population centers does
not need to be created; it already exists on the
street.  Police departments have access to criminal
intelligence data that provides them with the ability
to detect emerging threats within their

Local law enforcement (wherever “local” may be,
ranging from Los Angeles to New York or Paris to
Islamabad) is also in the position of being able to
develop community awareness, human access, and
technically-enabled collections against identified or
suspected threat actors or their co-optees.  Police,
therefore, need to interact with not only national
intelligence agencies, but also on a global scale
through cooperation agreements with international
partners in law enforcement.  

Ultimately, the participation of law enforcement
intelligence activities, especially in the new strategic
security environment, should be broadly defined to
include both federal and local law enforcement, as
well as international law enforcement agencies like
Interpol and Europol.   If such models of
engagement and interaction are to be successfully
implemented, police will increasingly need to acquire
skills in global affairs and undergo language and
culture training.  More research, study and
innovation of emerging models and paradigms for
“global policing”  are needed.  
The Grand Challenge: Proactive vs. Reactive

The sophistication and motivation of the adversary
in the context of the nebulous environments in
which they operate lies at the very heart of the
grand challenge for law enforcement and intelligence
as they seek to move as close and as often as
possible to anticipating an adversary’s intentions,
plans, and actions (early warning and prevention –
a.k.a. “intelligence”) and away from simply
responding to and recovering from attacks.  

Terrorism poses a specific challenge for law
enforcement, which has historically been trained to
investigate crimes after the fact and bring the guilty
parties to justice rather than hunt down terrorists
and prevent surprise attacks.  For example, most
criminal justice programs teach police officers how
to identify criminals, take them into custody, and all
the while collect information that will stand up on
court and bring a conviction.  
Certainly legal boundaries play a significant role in
the counterterrorism and intelligence role of modern
law enforcement agencies; however, even more
emphasis must be placed on understanding the
context in which potential terrorist activities occur
so that strategic security professionals
(intelligence analysts, protection specialists, and
counterterrorism operators) are best positioned to
detect and prevent emerging threat before it
becomes a reality.

Accordingly, there are a range of complexities for
law enforcement and intelligence when it comes to
formulation, development, and implementation of
proactive strategies, ranging from issues of civil
liberties and legal protections that apply to the
practice of religion and right of assembly, to
restrictions on government intrusion without
justification or legal countenance.  Learning about
these types of issues requires in-depth education
and classroom training in addition to hands-on

New Intelligence and Counterterrorism Skill-
Sets Needed for Law Enforcement Officers

Law enforcement counterterrorism and intelligence
officers must possess new skills to effectively
combat terrorism in their local communities.  For
example, police in major metropolitan areas will
increasingly need to acquire skills in global strategic
security affairs and undergo classroom training to
understand terrorist group dynamics and terrorist

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter-
Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau, for
example, recently told its officers to report incidents
“potentially related to foreign or domestic
terrorism.”    The key here, as well as at other police
departments around the nation, is to properly equip
police officers with the skills and tools they need to
be successful in their new homeland security
missions related to counterterrorism and

A good first step is to train police how to recognize
and report “heightened suspicious activity” in their
jurisdictions, but to be truly effective, law
enforcement personnel need to know how to create
taxonomies of support networks (to include
transnational criminals and gangs) as a means to
map linkages for future attribution and disruption
(including, ideally, prosecution).

Key nodes (including persons with specialized
expertise, information, materials and equipment,
logistics and finance) and links (by which the
highest priority transfers occur) should be the
subject of appropriate law enforcement and
intelligence attention, action, exploitation and

Education in this regard must be targeted to not
only describe the benefits of information sharing
but, in a very practical sense, it must also teach
analysts how to recognize the information that
should be shared and how to create the
organizational culture and protocols to share
information effectively and appropriately.
Pin-pointing specific loci where shared interests
overlap, like money laundering, drug trafficking (to
raise money), and other types of financial support
networks are examples where cross-cutting
cleavages may exist between crime and terrorism.  
Linkages between “strategic” criminal groups (e.g.
transnational gangs like Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13,
or organized crime families like the Sicilian and
Russian mafia) and terrorist groups in particular
present a dynamic challenge that requires an equally
dynamic response.  

Jeremy Tamsett, MA is an Analyst with the U.S.
Department of Defense and Henley-Putnam
University, where he serves the latter as a
researcher, writer, editor, and subject matter
expert on intelligence and counterterrorism.  Mr.
Tamsett concurrently provides analytic services on
terrorism, port security, and nuclear and radiological
weapons issues for the Homeland Security
Innovation Association (HLSIA).  Formerly, Mr.
Tamsett was President and Founder of International
Security Solutions Corporation (ISSC), a
consultancy that provided state and local
government entities with subject matter expertise
related to WMD terrorism.  Mr. Tamsett has served
as a Project Manager and Terrorism Researcher for
the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies
(CETIS) and was also a Research Assistant at the
Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey,
CA.  He is co-editor of Jihadists and Weapons of
Mass Destruction, (New York: CRC Press, 2008),

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